More Than A Rural Club

Kildangan... more than just a rural GAA Club - Leinster Leader, 2 Dec 2010

Dormant for years, now ten years reformed, KIldangan has just been named Kildare 'Club of the Year'

by Ruth O'Brien, Leinster Leader

 Let one introduce you to the 2010 Kildare GAA Club of the Year, Kildangan. The club who call More O'Ferrall Park their home. They might only have a junior team and a handful of underage sides but nonetheless they are deserving recipients.

Ten years ago the club didn't even exist but it was pulled from the doldrums and with the helping hand of their neighbours in Kildangan Stud, it's back on its feet and building for the future.

John Nealon is the chairman of Kildangan GAA club and he, along with his fellow committee members and indeed the community, is very proud of the club's achievements. Their trophy cabinet might not be littered with silverware but with a strong underage set up in place, Nealon believes the future is a bright one.

 "When you consider the fact that the club was dormant for 20 years and what has been achieved over the last nine years, then it is great to get the club of the year award. The whole thing has been a build up of a head of steam," explained club chairman John Nealon.

 He added: "In 2001 we got going again with an aging adult junior team, which still is the case! There were no kids playing and it wasn't until 2005 that Declan McGrath put the underage structures in place. On the first Sunday or Saturday morning probably eight kids came in to the field. That same bunch of young lads and girls from 2005, almost 6 years ago now, won a Division 2 Under 12 title, so that's the first jump from nothing to something from an underage point of view. I told them when they won it that in six years time they'll be minors, so that's how quick time goes by."

For 20 years now the village of Kildangan didn't have a GAA club but on April 3 they were back in business, while their first team played against Caragh just twenty days later. Like so many villages in Kildare, the influx of new families made it possible to reform the club.

"The club was dormant for so long basically because there was no one around and there was no activity. Times were hard back then. It's kind of the same now. In the village there was 90 odd house built in three new development over the last ten years and that has helped us because of the young families moving in.

As I said, in '05 eight kids came in here and now we have over 130 or 140 kids playing with us. It's just mayhem on a Friday evening but that's where the future is. The oldest group we have playing is the Under 12s and the Under 13s, but we had to amalgamate with Athgarvan at Under 13, Under 14 and Under 15 level this year to try to keep the teams going.

The children are the future of the club and that's why we had to get something going here in terms of a facility," the chairman told the Leinster Leader last week. Another huge success story from out these parts is, of course, that of ladies football. The Kildangan/Nurney ladies teams have been thriving since its inception and some of the players can now call themselves All Ireland winners.

 "A lot of thing have happen; not only have we moved to the new ground but we've grown the underage base. Our Cul Camp last year was the biggest in the county - we had 120 kids here and 100 of them were our own so that in itself is a big achievement. On top of that we formed a ladies club called Kildangan/Nurney, which I'm involved in myself because I have two girls. The girls have had huge success over the last five years. For instance we had eight girls on the Community Games on the All Ireland winning Under 12 team this year and all eight of them started. For the first time ever this year we fielded a minor team in Division 3 and they made it to the semi final," admitted Mr Nealon.

Kildangan Stud have been a massive influence in the reemergence of this club. In fact, without the stud, they might not have made a comeback. Their present six acre site belongs to the club and they will be forever indebted to their neighbours for it.

 "Michael Osbourne Snr, who has since passed, was the long term management here (Kildangan Stud) and long term confidant of the Al Maktoum's, who own the place. His son Joe (Osbourne) is the current manager and he was the first one we met, myself, Declan McGrath, Gabriel Murtagh and Stan Worrell. We were a sub committee formed to go up and have a chat to see if we could progress the idea of us moving to a proper pitch or even do something with the field; balance it up a bit. That's about four or five years ago now and that's what has brought us to this. Joe was very much instrumental and then Jimmy Hyland, who lives in the village and is one of the senior managers in the stud and a director, got involved as well and between the two of them here we are," explained the chairman.

 He added: "It was a huge move forward by the Stud to give us something in the first place because there's very few would have been able to give us six acres. At the time we had about €20,000 but that was gone quickly doing the pitch surround, the fencing and the goal posts. We also have lights we put up ourselves and we'll be putting up more next year."

 And the ground's name? Roderic More O'Ferrall Park. Named after a former owner of the stud and a very generous individual. "Roderic More O'Ferrall owned Kildangan Stud for a long, long time. If you go down to the church you'll see a huge mural of Our Lord up at the top and he donated that and he did endless things for the village and always supplied a field to the GAA," said Nealon.

 Kildangan GAA have come a long way in the past twenty years and they have the right attitude. The likes of Moorefield and Sarsfields might be the premier teams in terms of senior silverware but Kildangan GAA Club are well aware that mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

 "It's not all about winning, it's about achieving things off the field too. If you saw the field we used to be in, all it was was a field that had a massive slope on it. It was awful but now we have good facilities with kids and adult dressing rooms. All in all there has been a huge effort in resurrecting it. 

And winning the award encourages us to keep on going" insists Nealon.