London GAA: A proper, county class pitch at last

London GAA Ruislip county class pitch

London GAA says Ruislip on track to be ‘at least as good’ as any county level ground in Ireland

• £5.5m ‘windfall’ from New Eltham to fund ‘Ruislip II’
• Capacity reduced by 380 seats in budget redesign
• London will play all 2017 fixtures away and all 2018 games at home
• Pitch ‘will rival any playing grass playing surface here or in Ireland’
• New specifications will reduce pitch usage by 25 per cent
• London will comfortably meet its own £500,000 share of total £4.17m cost

By Fiona O’Brien

Construction work at Irish TV Grounds in Ruislip will be completed by May 14 of next year, as the London GAA community learns to live without its home.

The county board have released the amended plans for the development, of which works started on June 15, which had to be slightly cut-back and modified to suit budget terms. And they have also revealed plans for the £5.5 million they received from the sale of New Eltham.

London GAA Ruislip county class pitch

Now that the development works have commenced at Irish TV Grounds, Ruislip the London county board have revealed the redesigned plans of the site. Works were originally meant to start in June of last year, and completed in time for this year’s Connacht Championship game against Mayo, but when the tenders came in over budget they had to be postponed.

This entailed a redesign so that the planned development would fit within the £4.17m budget. The bulk of the saving has come from modifying the stand, and making it slightly smaller.

The original plans for a 2,330 seater stand had room for a gym underneath it, but that has now been scrapped as the stand is shortened to hold 1,950 people. The ground will also be completely enclosed, with a one-way entrance and exit point, with the existing access from West End Lane remaining the same, but vehicles will need to depart from the left of the Community Development office.

London GAA Ruislip county class pitch

There will also be:
• Completely enclosed, north terrace, stand and new pitch and scoreboard, with camera viewing platform.
• A floodlit warm-up/training area to the rear of the bottom goals.
• Seated stand for 1,950, with 750 covered.
• Four dressing rooms, one referees’ room, storage room, medical treatment room, male and female toilets. Disabled toilets, access and seating.
• Completely re-developed drained pitch with provision for irrigation with rain water harvesting via attenuation tanks and well.

The move by London GAA to west London in the late seventies was seen then as a significant development in the history of Gaelic games in Britain. New Eltham in south east London had become the ‘hub’ of London GAA playing activity soon after the end of the Second World War and for more than forty years players and domestic GAA followers often made their weekly long trip to the Avery Hill Road venue.

But now with Ruislip closed for the past six weeks, the London GAA community are really understanding its worth.

London GAA Ruislip county class pitch

“Ruislip being closed is an awful loss to people. There may be people come out here to gather and watch games, and have a conversation about matches at home and a bit of craic,” Donal Corbett of the Ruislip Development committee said. “But now we don’t have that. The fixtures are all over London at the minute and we haven’t had the same attendances or seeing people on a regular basis. It may be a small number of maybe one or two hundred people but that is our community.”

As well as the new stand and the facilities underneath it, the existing dressing rooms – attached to the clubhouse – will be transformed into meeting rooms and a space for the media.

“The pitch will rival any here or in Ireland. We were getting to the stage where the pitch was not fit for purpose. If you ask any player here Ruislip was great to play on in the spring or autumn, but come winter and the ground was so hard that they would be coming off with burns.

“When we did the pitch analysis for the developers they couldn’t believe that it was being used so much. So the new pitch will have roughly about 25 per cent less matches on it.”

London GAA Ruislip county class pitch

And on Monday Croke Park announced that Central Council agreed to London’s request that in 2017 they be permitted to play all of their Allianz league games (in both hurling and football) away from home. It means that when Ruislip is ready for the 2018 campaign all of their Allianz league games in 2018 will be played at home.

“It’s something that will need to be discussed because there are double headers as well where football and hurling takes place on the same weekend.”

The county board is also on track to raise the half a million pounds it committed towards the development.

“We’ve had a great uptake from patrons, and after we reminded people of the seat plaque donations from clubs and members we are confident they will come in as well. People may get them as gifts for other people too. At the moment with the funding on our side, if you were to look at it in a pot we are probably 60 per cent of the way there.

“But that will all be completed by May 14 when the grounds are good to go in time for the Connacht Football match next year.”

London GAA Ruislip county class pitch

Ruislip Funding

London GAA is committed to raising £500,000.00 as part of the total funding required for these works.

Patrons of Ruislip Development

To date the support received from the patrons of Ruislip development has been very encouraging and the support from the business community demonstrates not only the need for the re-redevelopment but the importance of the GAA to the Irish community in London.

Seat Plaques

For a donation of £125 London GAA will place a plaque on a seat with your name or a name you nominate. Seats are randomly allocated and although your name will be on a seat, it does not reserve you the opportunity to use the seat with your name on any given day. Income gives the individual Gaels an opportunity to contribute to the development costs and to show their support.

Keep the Connection

Since formation in 1896 all GAA Clubs in London have always, and will continue, to welcome fellow country men and women from home and assist in finding them work, accommodation as well as providing all the necessary support for those who wish to continue playing our national games.

Many of those who came to London returned to Ireland after a few years and many will have re-joined their home clubs as players (some winning All Ireland medals), as administrators or supporters. All members of London GAA continue to support their home clubs and counties in any way they can.

“We acknowledge the economic circumstances we live in both at home and here in London. However, we feel strongly that “Our vision must become a reality to be left as our legacy” as we pass on these facilities to future generations, that shall be befitting our association for many years to come,” say the County Board.

“We are now asking for the support of clubs and counties at home in Ireland as we attempt to raise the funds necessary to bring our development project to fruition. We would be grateful if all clubs, county boards and provincial councils would consider making a donation of between €100-€200 towards the project.”

Cheques can be made out to “Ruislip Development” or alternatively funds can be transferred to Account Number 17739069, Sort Code 93-00-67 in the AIB International, Dublin.

Please ensure full details accompany the lodgement so London GAA can acknowledge your much appreciated contribution.

The above account is under the control of Central Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

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