The President of the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) will travel to Ireland next weekend to view the remarkable new €1,500,000 pitch and clubhouse development a small rugby club has undertaken in partnership with a local GAA team.
Legendary former All Black Bryan Williams will unveil a plaque in Dave Gallaher Park on Saturday next, 3rd November at 1.30pm to officially open the section of the shared rugby/GAA facility that will be home to Letterkenny RFC.
Earlier in the day, the former Rugby World Cup coach will take a session involving young players and under-age coaches at Letterkenny RFC.
New Zealand-based writer Matt Elliott will also conduct the Irish and UK launch of his new Harper Collins biography Dave Gallaher: the Original All Black Captain at the event.
Mr Williams and Mr Elliott will be joined in Letterkenny by the President of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Billy Glynn, and current coach of the Ulster team, New Zealander Mark Anscombe.
Born in the village of Ramelton, five miles from Letterkenny, Dave Gallaher emigrated to New Zealand with his family as a boy. He became the first man to captain a team referred to as All Blacks in 1905 and is credited with helping make rugby the national sport of New Zealand.
Seven years ago, a party of All Blacks led by captain Tana Umaga, visited the undeveloped sports ground and named the rugby club’s pitches after Co. Donegal-born Dave Gallaher. That event, including a pilgrimage to Gallaher’s birthplace in the nearby village of Ramelton, made headlines all over the world, and since then the club have been striving to develop a ground that is worthy of their famous patron.
Bryan Williams is currently director of rugby at the Ponsonby RFC, the New Zealand club Dave Gallaher played for more than a century ago and he coached the Samoan team in Rugby World Cup 1999.
Chairman of Letterkenny RFC, Michael McGinty told those present that it was appropriate the All Blacks had sent their most senior representative to Ireland for the event. “When we initially asked the NZRU for help in sharing the story of Dave Gallaher with people in Ireland, we explained that we hoped an All Blacks link might also deliver a much-needed boost for a club struggling to promote rugby. Their positive response and the subsequent All Blacks visit delivered on this beyond our wildest expectations.
“Since the All Blacks left us seven years ago, we have been working tirelessly to make the most of the legacy they gave us. A new under-age structure exists within our club now and many of these young players were inspired to take up the game by our New Zealand connection.
“Thanks in no small part to the partnership with our friends in Letterkenny Gaels, we have been able to put world-class facilities in place at Dave Gallaher Park – including clubroom, changing facilities and two top-class pitches. This will help ensure that any Donegal kid who dreams about being the next Dave Gallaher has the best possible chance to realise their dream,” he added.
The development of this sporting facility, at a cost of almost €1,500,000, represents a pioneering partnership between Letterkenny RFC and recently-formed local GAA team, Letterkenny Gaels. The collaboration, which the club believes helped the project attract significant funding from the National Lottery, entails the rugby and GAA teams taking on a role as anchor tenants whilst retaining their own separate identity, playing and training pitches within the campus at the Glebe