Cathaoirleach Limerick City and County Council Michael Collins turns the first sod on the Regional Athletics Hub in Newcastle West

Local TD and Minister Patrick O’Donovan was Minister for Sport when the Athletics Track project in Newcastle West was first started, and he has said that his time in the Department was key to getting the go ahead to bringing Newcastle West project to its current stage.
Patrick O’Donovan met with the local steering group who were established on a number of occasions after they were first established and encouraged them on how they should develop their idea. He was the first person to insist that the project had to be led by a public or state body, because a voluntary group would not be able to cover the size of the costs that would be involved.
As Minister for Sport Patrick O’Donovan was able to engage at a national level with Sport Ireland including, the Chief Executive John Treacy. He arranged for him to visit Newcastle West and officials of the Department of Sport who also visited the site on the Cork Road in the town.
“As Minister for Sport I was in a position to show the group based on other towns around the country what this project was likely to cost and why it was so important that the Council had to be involved. There was no way that a voluntary group would be able to do this, so we had several engagements with the Council Management and gradually there was an acceptance that this would have to be not only built by the Council, but also operated by the Council. Otherwise it would quickly become a huge liability to a small group. I think the events of the last year with COVID has shown that this was the correct course of action as there was no way that a group of volunteers would have been able to run this facility. As Minister for Sport this was something I felt really strongly on and insisted that the Council had to take responsibility for. This definitely was the right thing to do.”
After moving Departments and being replaced by Brendan Griffin, he arranged for Minister Griffin to visit the site in Newcastle West in advance of funding being allocated to the project.
“I brought Brendan down and showed him the site and shortly afterwards further funding arrived, bringing the total to €1.5million from Government. I’m delighted to see construction started on this. Having worked on it locally and nationally and delivered the funding from Government which was needed to get it over the line it is great to see it moving forward now. It’s just one of a number of local projects that I’ve been working on that take time, but its time well spent.
“The Government have invested heavily into this project here in Newcastle West, and I am proud to have been in a position first as Minister for Sport to be there in the planning stage, and then in the Department of Public Expenditure for the delivery stage. The next phase will be fantastic. In twelve months we will have a track for young athletes, and hopefully we will have someone locally complete in regionals, nationals, Europeans or Olympics from this track. That will be the best form of delivery from this investment. I really look forward to that.”