Matt Gallagher and Sam open astroturf at the Bressy Centre

THERE was massive excitement in Cashelard on Thursday night, as one of the Heroes of ‘92, Matt Gallagher, brought the Sam Maguire to open the new astroturf facility at the Breesy Centre.

THERE was massive excitement in Cashelard on Thursday night, as one of the Heroes of ‘92, Matt Gallagher, brought the Sam Maguire to open the new astroturf facility at the Breesy Centre.

The entire local community seemed to have turned out, from babies in carry-cots right up to septuagenarians, all in the mood to celebrate.

Speaking to the Donegal Democrat/People’s Press before the opening, the famous full-back from Ballintra said he’d thoroughly enjoyed Donegal’s second All-Ireland Championship. “It was fantastic, especially the way it really lifted everyone.

“There was so much excitement and that was the big difference this time around. In 1992, we were focused on the match and kept away from all the build-up. I remember my brother ringing me and trying to describe the excitement. He said they’d love for me to be there and I would have loved to have been there.

“This time, it was great to be a part of it all. Even now, there are flags still up and wains in jerseys. Everywhere Sam goes, it brings great excitement. Everyone should cherish these moments, you never know when they’ll come again.”

Looking ahead to the current season, Matt says Donegal has every reason to be confident. “They should be thinking of doing the double, of course - everyone in the county is. If it was Dublin or Cork or Kerry, they’d be thinking that way, and I’m sure Jim is.

“We’ve a tough road ahead, having drawn Tyrone, but that’s nothing new, it’s our third year facing them. We’ve every chance. That’s the great thing about sport, nothing is set in stone and anything can happen.”

At the launch, Seamus McGarrigle, MC for the occasion, welcomed everyone. He said it was appropriate that, “the only man with an All-Ireland medal and a real link to Cashelard had been asked to perform the honours”.

The footballer himself, McGarrigle recalled his many visits to the homeplace of his grandmother, Suzanne McCool, and spoke of his many cousins living local, including the McGarrigles.

He added: “My mother was district nurse for this area as well and we spent lots of time in the car with her and got to know so many, many people. I am very proud to be here tonight.

“This new facility and the Breesy Centre itself, are tributes to the very strong sense of community that exists here. I was shocked that the cost of the astroturf came in at €158,000. Without all the support from locals, from volunteers who worked hard, contractors who made their equipment and services available and, of course Donal Kelly, who donated the site, I can assure you that the cost would have been closer to €400,000.

“It’s great to see so many young people here because they are the ones who will be getting the full benefit of it. No matter what sport they play, getting out and active is great for them. We’ve heard talk of obesity and heart problems in this country. Well, when I see mothers dropping their children off here after school to let them kick a ball around for an hour or so, I know that this is where the solution lies.”

MIchael McGarrigle, Chairman of Cashelard Community Development, said he was delighted to see this “21st century facility” in the locality. He remembered his father’s medals from the days when he and four other local lads would cycle to Irvinestown, play a few matches and cycle back again on a Sunday. It was great that people of all ages would be able to have access to such a tremendous facility.

He said: “Good neighbours are a blessing and we are blessed with good neighbours here. Everything we had done has been done with the full support of everyone here and we thank you for that. It would not happen without you.”

He thanked DLDC for providing 80% of the funding, through the Leader Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. “The programme ends this year, so we got in just under the wire,” he joked.

Jim Slevin, DLDC Chairman, whose grandmother owned local pub, The Travellers’ Rest, said that Cashelard Community Development’s experience in developing and successfully running the Breesy Centre had been a major factor in the decision to award such a substantial grant to the project, as had the project’s potential to create jobs, both directly and indirectly.”