New 3G pitch officially opened at Rathfriland High School

Sporting representatives, local dignitaries along with representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Down Rural Area Partnership (DRAP), Banbridge District Council (BDC) and the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) joined members of Rathfriland High School on the new 3rd Generation, floodlit pitch on Tuesday 17 December to mark its official opening.

Council Chief Executive Liam Hannaway began proceedings by welcoming an enthusiastic crowd to the new synthetic pitch located on the Rathfriland High School’s campus.

The pitch which has received investment under Axis 3 of the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013, through Down Rural Area Partnership (DRAP) was officially opened by DARD Deputy Secretary David Small.

Mr Small stated: “The health and wellbeing of rural communities is becoming increasingly important, given the isolation to service provision.”

“Recreation and play and its associated benefits can act as a motivator for children and young people to pursue physical activity and I am pleased that Banbridge District Council, in partnership with the Southern Education and Library Board and Rathfriland High School have been successful with their application for funding under the current RDP for the construction of this 3G facility.

“I have no doubt that this facility will provide many benefits and improve the health and wellbeing of the wider community.”

Speaking at the event, Banbridge District Council Chairman, Councillor Olive Mercer said: “This will be the third dual use sports facility the Council and the Education Board have developed in the district and it will provide much needed sports facilities in the rural Rathfriland area. The new facility is also further proof of the Council’s commitment to the people of the district and represents a significant investment in the sports infrastructure of the area as well as local people’s health and wellbeing. I would like to thank all

those involved in making this project in particular Catriona Regan, Director of Leisure and Development, Ben Corr, Head of Leisure, Gillian Dewart, Sports Development Officer and Terry Scullion, Clerk of Works. The Council would also like to acknowledge Down Rural Area Partnership’s contribution in making this project a success.”

Councillor Mercer also paid tribute to both the design and construction teams, Sportslabs and Tony Patterson Sports Grounds, for delivering a first-class sports pitch.

Councillor Mercer added “I want to finish by reminding everyone that this is by no means the end of a journey, but only the beginning of another leg. Not only is it a fantastic facility for the school but also a superb facility that will be able to be used by the community all year round. It is therefore important that we all work together in partnership to ensure maximum usage of a facility that has the potential to develop communities and strengthen relations through sport.”

Also addressing the guests were David Kerr, Chairman of the Local Action Group, Down Rural Area Partnership, Amanda McCullough, Principal of Rathfriland High School and Mike Donaghy, Head of Development Planning and Support Services with the SELB, who all spoke of the importance and benefits of the impressive new facility for the school, the people of Rathfriland and the district as a whole.

Guests were treated to a fantastic sporting display by Professional Freestyle Footballer Jamie Knight, who along with Active Communities Coach Alex Clifford provided coaching sessions with the pupils.

The pitch which is to a FIFA 1 Star standard will be suitable for football matches and training as well as GAA and rugby training. During the term time school day the pitch will be utilised for educational use and will be available for Community use (which will be managed by Banbridge District Council via Rathfriland Community Centre) in the evenings, weekends and school holidays.

For further information or bookings for community use, please contact Rathfriland Community Centre T: 028 4063 8188 or E: info@rathfrilandcommunitycentre.gov.uk