All to play for in Rathdowney

Last Friday night the parochial hall was packed to the rafters with excited children and parents, all waiting to see the designs revealed. The giddy atmosphere was helped along by plates of buns supplied free by local caterer Linda Hayes, and entertainment by teen singer Rebecca Treacy, and farmer turned poet, Michael Creagh.

The honour of revealing the plans went to Isabelle Kelly, a 6th class student at Killadooley NS, who won a competition to name the park. She picked “Gort na nÓg”, and proved herself a talented tin whistler on the night too.

Gort na nÓg will stand on a large site leased to the town by the VEC, beside St Fergal’s College. It will feature an all weather playing pitch that can be adapted for many sports, which the secondary school will also use.

The playground will include a giant fort, zip wires, a rope swing to fit 14 children and a sensory area to name just some of over fifty items, installed by Donegal company Allplay. Work will start within weeks, and it is expected to be ready by May, at a cost of €250,000.

The hard working committee raised their target of €31,250 through local fundraisers. This was matched by Laois County Council, and the remainder of €187,500 was granted through Laois Partnership.

PRO of the committee, Orla Doyle said they were getting good value for their money.

“We pushed for as much as we could get, it was community money we were spending. Because everyone was involved, we feel like we all own it now, so I hope it will be respected more,” she said.

Cllr John King was a happy man on the night, even trying on Michael Creagh’s cowboy hat for size, before thanking the committee for all their hard work. Chair of the committee, he heard of the need for the facility while canvassing in the 2009 elections, and it was he who approached the VEC to suggest they lease out land for it.

“I’m very proud. I am indebted to the people for letting me represent them, and backing me on this project,” he said.

Ann Goodwin of Laois Partnership said they were delighted to give money to the project.

“They are a great group, the whole project is great. We have lots of money. Start-up businesses are what we are really looking at now,” she said.

Rathdowney Girl Guides and Brownies attended, and among them were Karen Keating who was hoping the playground would be ready for her 9th birthday on May 20, and Ella Hayes.

“The things I’m most excited about are the monkey bars and all the playground stuff,” said Ella, who like the other children usually travel to Roscrea to visit a playground. They all went home happily clutching a free red pencil inscribed with the name of their new playground, while parent Bernie Hayes went home even happier, having won the door prize, a massive hamper.