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Shane Lowry is using his fame to help his home county on the road to a GAA revival

by Ryan Bailey was published in the The 42.ie on Friday the 16th of October 2015

The county's new centre of excellence training facility was launched yesterday.

OFFALY GAA HAS launched its purposeful plan to restore the county to its former glories with the development of a new training facility – and Shane Lowry is spearheading the fundraising drive.

The €2.25 million project is designed to facilitate the development of players in all codes, both male and female across all ages, with a view to making the county as competitive and successful as it once was.

Once completed, The Faithful Fields centre of excellence will be home to four floodlit pitches, six dressing rooms, a meeting and dining room and a gym.

The county board has obtained funding from the GAA’s Central Council, Leinster GAA, the Sports Capital Programme and the Offaly Enterprise Fund but must now rely on the goodwill of the public to raise the remaining €750,000.

Lowry was in attendance at Croke Park yesterday for the official launch and the Clara-born golfer hopes to play a central part in ensuring this legacy project goes ahead as planned.

“Preparation is everything in sport,” he said. “You hear stories of Offaly players having to go out of the county to train and it’s not good.

“If everything goes right and they get it built properly then this is a big step. The players deserve to have access to the same facilities as the Dubs. “If I went onto the practice ground in the morning and Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were on a different one which was better, I’d be wondering what’s going on. And that’s the way it’s been.”

Lowry, who is sitting in a career high 18th place in the world rankings, has regularly spoken about his GAA background and love for the game.

His father, Brendan, and uncle, Sean, were part of the All-Ireland winning team in 1982 – the last time the Faithful county’s footballers have lifted the Sam Maguire.

The ultimate aim, of course, is to see Offaly teams reclaim their place among the GAA elite again but this project is as much about the community as anything else.

“This is not about bricks and mortar,” Kieran Keenaghan, Chairman of The Faithful Fields Work Group, said. “This is about securing a successful future for the generations of Offaly players and supporters to come.

“We have a long and proud tradition in this county and it’s the current generation’s responsibility to ensure that legacy is passed on to the next.” Before the impressive unveiling at GAA HQ yesterday, the fundraising committee reported half of the €750,000 required had already been raised through donations and other sponsorship opportunities.

And it’s hoped an exciting event hosted by Lowry in 2016 will ensure that figure is surpassed.

The 28-year-old was tight-lipped on the details and insists the fundraiser remains in the early stages of planning but he expects to raise a six-figure sum.

“It will be nice to do something big,” Lowry continued. “We’ve a couple of ideas but the way we’re talking is not to do something that would raise 20 or 30k but something over 100k.

“I don’t want to do something that’s not going to raise enough money. Everyone in Ireland knows my love for GAA, for Offaly and my home town as well. If there is anything I can do to help out, I told Michael [Duignan] I’d definitely try my best.

“I’m quite busy until Christmas but I’m sure between now and January we’ll organise and finalise something for the middle or end of next year.” The county board were keen to stress that this will be a debt free project regardless of whether fundraising targets are met or not. Work has already begun on the full-sized training pitches while the building phase is expected to start before Christmas.

The hard work lies ahead but these are exciting times for Offaly GAA and the wider community.

Shane Lowry was in Croke Park yesterday to announce Offaly GAA’s plans to develop a new centre of excellence. The Faithful Fields project will cost €2.25 million to develop in total with Offaly GAA aiming to raise €750,000 before 30 November.

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