REPEATED and very costly damage is being caused to the grounds of Killarney Celtic Football Club by groups of young people who are trespassing and indulging in anti-social behaviour at all times of the day and night.
That was the disturbing scenario outlined to Killarney Municipal District Council this Wednesday morning during a virtual deputation involving club chairman, Paul Sherry and, vice chairman Tim Jones.
“It has become a sport now for some of these young people to be found running along the apex of the roof of the clubhouse, putting their lives at risk,” Mr Sherry said.
He said the club and the council must be concerned that someone will have an accident and end up bringing a case against them, together or individually.
The chairman said erecting a fence around the grounds would be an easy option but it will not solve this problem as access can still be gained.
“There are wider social issues at play here,” he insisted.
Mr Sherry said over the last number of years, the area at Ballydribeen, where the club grounds are located, has become very built-up with a large development of social housing to the extent that the estate is now as big as or even bigger than Ballyspillane.
“This, in itself, is not a problem but the lack of a local amenity or green areas for children for play purposes has not been a provision in these developments.
“In fact, at an information meeting of the residents prior to the last phase of development, when they raised the provision of playgrounds and green areas as an issue, they were directed to Killarney Celtic and Legion GAA club as being ample provision,” the chairman said.
The problems with vandalism have been referred to gardaí and local authority officials have visited the area but the difficulties persist.
“Given the possibility that, in time, there will be a further housing development on the old rugby field, we feel that the time is now right to look at utilising the grounds between Legion and ourselves to create that much-needed amenity space and recreational sports hub which is such an obvious use for this parcel of land,” the Celtic chairman added.
He said the purpose of the deputation was to put the issue on the agenda with a view to solving some of the social problems that are impacting on the club and on the lives of the residents and children of the area.
Vice Chairman, Tim Jones, who is also the club’s head of maintenance and development, said Celtic has to constantly spend money on repairing the damage caused, with goalposts having to be welded and repaired at least 10 times and fences that have been broken down having to be fixed.
On any given day there cam be up to 30 to 40 young people using the grounds but they are not members of the club.
“We can cater for kids that are members of the club as they are insured and we can discipline them, but it’s just lawless up there at the moment and we need help,” he remarked.
“The guards will come and clear them but they go out one gate and in another,” he said.
“There is a big problem there with drinking and anti-social behaviour,” Mr Jones said, adding that members are constantly picking up shards of broken glass that have been thrown around the playing fields.
Councillors and officials said they are aware of the problems and an inter-agency committee will be established to involve all the stakeholders, including representatives of the residents’ association in the Ballydribeen area, gardai, council officials and members and officials from Killarney Celtic FC and Killarney Legion GAA Club.
Municipal District Officer, Eileen O’Donoghue, said she sits on a similar inter-agency group in Ballyspilllane and it works very well.
“I have no issues with setting up a similar forum in Ballydribieen where there is an excellent residents’ group,” she said.
Ms O’Donoghue said the residents are currently developing a plan for the area and there can be an opportunity for all stakeholders to be engaged in the process.
Killarney Municipal District Manager, Angela McAllen, commended the club on the facilities it has and for catering so well for many people.
“The forming of a group of parties would be a very positive step forward,” she said.
Paul Sherry said he wanted to make it clear that it was the anti-social behaviour they had a problem with and not the people living in the area.
“It’s all about pride of place. The young people coming on to the premises are not bad kids – they are just looking for some place to play,” he said.
The club chairman said it’s not unusual for 12 or 13-year-olds to be seen “swinging out of goalposts” but they are not covered by insurance in the event of an accident.
Celtic stalwart, Cllr Niall O’Callaghan, who was PRO for the club 36 years ago, at the age of 15, said it was a matter for education and communication.
“Killarney Celtic’s facilities can stand up against any club in the world, not alone Ireland. It costs a fortunate to run that club and we have to help if the facilites are being thrashed,” he stated.
Cllr Niall Kelleher, who arranged the deputation with Cllr O’Callaghan, said the most of the damage was being caused by a minority of individuals and a number of them aren’t even from the area.
“Fires are being lit outside the grounds in the vacant site and the ditches are going on fire. There are big issues to be dealt with,” he said.
Cllr Kelleher said the club is fundraising and “fighting tooth and nail” to provide facilities for the people of Killarney but this wanton destruction was putting everything at risk and there is a need to work closely with An Garda Siochana to deal with the anti-social behaviour.
Killarney Celtic are the reigning Kerry league and cup champions as well as the FAI Youths Cup holders.