WESTPORT United “badly deserves” a new home, according to Minister Michael Ring, who called on his hometown soccer club to put plans on his desk to develop a new facility.
“We need to get this facility up and running,” said Ring, Minister of State for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. “And if an application comes before my department, I won’t be found wanting.”
Speaking at the launch of a book produced to mark the 100th anniversary of Westport United’s foundation, Minister Ring said the club “badly deserves” a new home. The Westport native called on people “who haven’t been involved” to join efforts to “select a venue” and meet in the next few weeks. “We have talked about it too long,” he added. “It’s a pity what happened … [but] we have to move on.”
The club’s initial application to develop club grounds in Aughagower was accepted by Mayo County Council in January 2008, but was overturned by An Bord Pleanála after an appeal by local residents and landowners. A renewed application for the facility in the townlands of Lugreveagh and Mountbrown was shot down by Mayo County Council in 2010.
Master of Ceremonies Liamy McNally predicted headlines like ‘Ring signs black cheque for new development’. Ring said he “smiled and cried” reading the 340-page publication, which costs €20. He praised the volunteers behind clubs like Westport United who he described as “the real leaders” of the country, and added: that the club’s “real history” would be told at the bar, because there are stories from Westport United’s history that can “never [be] put in a book”!
Club chairman Frank Gillivan made a presentation to Minister Ring, while Pádraig Burns, editor of the book ‘Soccer History: Westport United 1911-2011’, made a presentation to Brian Cusack, whose “energy and drive” were central to the book’s completion. Pádraig Burns told the large crowd in the Castlecourt Hotel that Westport United was “more than a club” and said it was “vital” that a book had been compiled to mark its centenary.
“We’ve tried to capture the flavour of the club,” said Burns, who said the seven-person committee who put it together were “very happy” with the publication. He praised the efforts of Michael McLoughlin, who “went to extremes” to put captions on 800 photographs, and hailed the “amazing work” of designer Michelle Gannon. He concluded with “a sincere thank you” to all photographers, interviewees and contributors to the book.
“If you’re looking for a centre forward or centre back, I still think I could play for Westport United,” joked Michael Ring, who concluded by saying: “Please God, I’ll be back in 100 years time to launch the next book!”
Mayo AFL PRO Pat Quigley described the book as “a mine of information” with “excellent stories” from the past and “new and old” photographs. Mayo AFL Chairman Pádraig McHale described ‘Soccer History’ as “a book that everyone should purchase” and said “great credit” was due to all involved in “bringing the history of the club to fruition in book form”.