“We are trying to lead by example”: Galway FA provides Eamonn Deacy Park as safe exercising space

A well lit Eamonn Deacy Park on Wednesday night. Photo: Dónal Ryan

The Galway Football Association (GFA) has announced it’s opening up Eamonn Deacy Park on weeknights to provide a safe space for people to exercise.

The stadium was open on Wednesday night between 6pm and 8pm, with full access available to the path that runs around the perimeter of the pitch.

Speaking at the pilot event on Wednesday, Chairman of the GFA, Tom Trill, explained that this was something that had been planned for some time.

“It’s something we’ve talked about now. This is the third winter we’ve tried to get this off the ground, and the cost and insurance keeps coming back into it,” he said.

The cost in question is that of the floodlights. Replacing the bulbs in the floodlights and their general maintenance can cost anything between €5,000 and €8,000 per stand, which ultimately restricts how often the floodlights can be turned on.

While the financial aspect was a stumbling block, the GFA committee felt the tragic events in Tullamore surrounding the murder of Ashling Murphy really drove home the need for a safe space for all.

Mr. Trill admitted that while there were committee members that were unsure about opening the park up, what has unfolded in recent weeks was enough to warrant opening the stadium up to the public.

“I think it brought the few who were sceptical about it, or who thought the costs didn’t make sense, I think it brought them on,” said Mr. Trill. “We knew this was an issue that there was no safe area for people exercising in this side of the city.

“We didn’t think it was as drastic or as tragic as what happened with Ashling, but we did think that there were issues with safety around traffic, issues with visibility and things like that. And of course, you do always have the risk of attack.”

The announcement from the GFA was very well received. Although pleasantly surprised by the volume of positive responses, Mr. Trill is hopeful that this event is something that can be built on.

 “You never know. I think if we try this properly for a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to see a rise in use of the place,” he said.

“We are trying to lead by example. We own it, we need to utilise it, we need to make it available to the public, and hopefully, other venues in other sporting codes start to do the same as well.”

As the event is being heralded as a success, Mr. Trill is keen to keep it going for as long as possible, with the addition of opening the stadium more than once a week also a viable option.

“I’d be aiming to get it open at least three nights a week, probably on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday, or it could be a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday. We just need to publicise to people, but I’d be hoping to run it up until March once we get it off the ground,” he said.

An announcement on the continuation of the event is expected next week.

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