The gathering. On a fine beautiful day a large contingent of people gathered to mark the official opening by St Brigid’s AC of their new tartan track.

St Brigid’s AC unveil their own field of dreams

In the film 'Field of Dreams' the character Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, has this idea that seems outlandish to his neighbours; to build a baseball stadium on his farm.

Logic and finance dictated that he shouldn't do it but he does build it, pushed on by a voice in his head; a hunch, that tells him: “Build it and they will come.” The hunch was right they did travel to his newly built stadium. They did come.

Those involved with St Brigid's Athletic Club have also pushed ahead with ambitious plans to build a new stadium in their home area of Ballinacree with the aim of providing high-ranking facilities for the current and future generation of athletes in the area. No doubt there were plenty of reasons not to push ahead with the project, financial reasons right up there, but they did push on regardless. They did build it.

Now those at St Brigid's AC are also hoping the facilities will provide the platform for young athletes in the area to reach their true potential and attain new heights. That they will have the opportunity to fulfil their dreams.

The recent official opening of the club's new facilities at Ballinacree was without doubt a momentous moment for the club, a description the club chairman Ger Heery agreed with.

A large contingent of people gathered for the opening which included a ceremonial cutting of the ribbon carried out by two club legends - Michael Heery and Joe Moynagh - both of whom were involved in the formation of St Brigid's AC over 52 years ago now. The cost of the project was €185,000 with grants making up €140,000 of that. The centrepiece is the 120m tartan track with a long jump. The site also includes a walkway while work was also carried out on a stone wall and the provision of fencing.

Many of those involved in the local athletics community were in attendance along with other familiar faces. All and sundry were welcomed to the new facility by Ger Heery, a quality athlete in his own right who won the Meath Athletics Senior Cross-Country Championship nine times between 1991 and 2007, five under the NACA and four under the AAI.

Among those who attended the official opening were John Cronin, President of Athletics Ireland, Michael Cornyn, chairperson Meath Athletics, Johnny Guirke TD, Aidan Mealife of Meath Leader as well as local clergymen, Fr Philip O'Connor and Fr Alo Connaughton. Ger Heery paid tribute to those who had gone before; men and woman who paved the way for those who now carry the baton. "We would not be here today if it were not for the foresight of our founding members. Having missed out on celebrating our 50th anniversary due to Covid we take this opportunity to recognise the contribution of two of our founding members who as still active in the club today, Michael Heery and Joe Moynagh," the club chairman told those in attendance.

"We would also like to remember some of our past members, Patsy Coyle our first secretary, Jack Guirke our first treasurer, uncle of TD Johnny who has been a great supporter of the club over the last number of years and it's much appreciated. Paddy Lord who provided the first dressing room for the athletic club, Marie Monaghan who served as secretary, Geraldine Dolan an outstanding athlete taken to young, Ronan Sheridan, former club coach."

There were others Ger Heery paid tribute to for their unstinting service such as businessman Benny Briody who served as club treasurer. "Benny was a man of vision and he left a lasting legacy in Ballinacree with all the employment he created."

Among those in attendance was local woman Anne Gilsenan, formerly Tuite. She set world records for the 1500m, mile and 3,000m in the masters category and has also won world titles in these events.

A major step towards St Brigid's AC securing their own home was secured in 2008 when the grounds were purchased. "We acknowledge the work done by our then chairperson Pat Plunkett who was the driving force behind the purchase," added Ger Heery.

"It took 10 years to pay for the grounds and a new wall up at the road. Then in 2018 we set about deciding what we were going to do with the grounds. It took us a year to come up with the plans," he outlined.

In August 2019 an application was submitted for funding to the Sports Capital programme and in December the club was allocated its first grant.

They were on their way.

Ger Heery said the club are extremely grateful for all grants received and to architects Ronan Balfe from Hanley Tate Architects and main contractor Nobby Kenny who started to move in the machines in April 2021. The project was now up and running in earnest. Others such as Patrick Collins and Tom O'Dowd also made big contributions during the construction phase.

"We have a lot of people to thank for their contribution to this project - Ballinacree Community Association for their help with Leader funding, St Brigid's GFC who were very accommodating to us at all times and special thanks to Hughie Gilsenan, Breffni Moynagh who reseeded the grounds, Ollie Fox who signed documents for us at short notice, St Brigid's AC officers and members for all their hard work."

Others too, including many local people who helped out in one way or another, were all all thanked for their varied contributions, the gratitude heartfelt.

"Our goal now is to see this fine facility used by the community and more importantly by our young members," he added. After a lengthy, sometimes arduous, often uncertain, journey St Brigid's AC have a fine new home to boast off now. Their very own field of dreams.