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Bolt, Shefflin and McIlroy help Kerry GAA rake in €1m in US fundraising

Items donated by the famous sporting trio were auctioned off at gala dinners.

Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh received a formal Proclamation from the City of New York.
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh received a formal Proclamation from the City of New York.
Image: Francisco Jose Bravo/Dimitrios Manousakis

KERRY GAA’S FUNDRAISING campaign for a new training facility shows no sign of slowing down as the overall target of €5.8 million edged closer after a successful tour of America.

The ambitious plan to develop a new training facility for all Kerry teams was launched in October 2013 and Kingdom chiefs now believe they are one last push from meeting the fundraising target.

A little over €1 million was raised from special events, auctions and golf outings held in Boston, New York and Chicago to swell the coffers and bring the county board close to their target.

An oil portrait of Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh by West Kerry artist Liam O’Neill sold for €21,000 while the American Ireland Fund contributed close to €90,000 as businessmen with Irish connections dipped into their pockets for the cause.

Among the auctioned items was a framed flag from the 18th hole of last year’s British Open signed by winner Rory McIlroy and a signed Irish rugby jersey from the Six Nations winning squad.

Other sports memorabilia included items from Paul McGinley, Tom Watson and Shane Lowry, Usain Bolt, Henry Shefflin and Jean de Villiers.

The highlight of the tour was the gala dinner held in the prestigious Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue with 420 guests in attendance. An Taoiseach Enda Kenny addressed the audience via video link while legendary commentator Ó Muircheartaigh was honoured on the night.

He received a formal Proclamation from the City of New York for his ‘extraordinary contribution to Irish life and the Gaelic Games’.

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Kerry team The current panel as well as the generations to come will benefit from the new facility Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The tour was also used to promote the ‘GAA brand’ with The Sam Maguire and Tom Markham Cups part of the hand luggage every step of the way while a number of former GAA stars held a skills session with 400 kids at Gaelic Park in the Bronx.

“This is the most successful event ever staged by any County Board in America,” Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Diaspora Affairs, said. “The new Centre of Excellence will not only benefit Kerry, it will also serve the diaspora since they can bring over young players for training camps in the summer.

“It could become a major centre for Gaelic football tourism.”

The proposed Centre of Excellence will feature a GAA facility at IT Tralee as well as a six training fields and a training facility at Currans which is located a short mile from Kerry Airport.

Work began on three pitches at Currans, which is a 48 acre site, last year and are expected to be completed in twelve months but the rest of the infrastructure, including a clubhouse, remains in the planning phase.

It’s believed some €5.7 million has already been raised from events similar to those staged in America and a final fundraiser in London later this month should see the total over the line.

The county board expect the project to be completed by early next summer.

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Ryan Bailey

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