Croke Park groundsman goes back to school in Donegal

ONE of the groundsmen who helped look after the Croke Park pitch ahead of recent All-Ireland Senior Football and Hurling Championship finals is working on a project much closer to home these days.

Hughie O’Donnell, who operates his own Groundwork and Landscaping Service in Annagry, is developing a new playing field and running track at Scoil Naomh Dúigh.

A past pupil of the school, O’Donnell made contact with parents and school authorities earlier in the year with an offer they couldn’t refuse.


Ms Ita Gallagher, who is a member of the school’s board of management takes up the story.

“Hughie is retiring from business this year. He’s a past pupil of the school and this is the last project that he wanted to do. He approached the school and offered to do the work for free – we fund and provide the materials.

“There’s no proper sporting facilities at the school. The existing pitch has no drainage and for more than forty years the children couldn’t even go out on to it a lot of the time. Only Hughie approached us this would never have happened,” Ms Gallagher explained.

The project cost is €40,000. To date, the school have received a €12,000 loan from the Board of Management and a private donation of €15,000. In order to complete the project a Go Fund Me page was set up to help raise the final €13,000.

“We’ve had tremendous support from former pupils, both those at home and aboard,” she said.

One former pupil is television presenter Tommy Martin who leads the Virgin Media flagship programme Ireland AM. He managed to squeeze in a plug for the new playground fundraiser on television last week.

“Tommy is at home this week and he’s going to interview Marc Walsh (Swansea City) who is another former pupil and that piece will be played during our online concert on Saturday night,” Ms Gallagher said.


Altan’s Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Daniel O’Donnell will be the main guests appearing in concert where they will be joined by a number of local artists.

“The school has always had strong connections with athletics and Rosses AC and we’re trying to keep that fire burning,” she said.

Things are progressing really well at the pitch. We are so grateful to everyone who has donated so far. We hope to have this finished in time for the children returning in September.

John Gillespie from G-FAB Tathú & Oibriú Miotail kindly donated a stunning, original design, bespoke fire pit which we raffled on Sunday night. We’re only €3,000 short of our target and that’s down to the generosity of people,” she added.
Donations can be made through our go fund me page or given to any committee member.


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