Dolan’s to rise from the ashes

Members of Sean Dolan's GAC outside the clubhouse which was damaged in an arson attack last month.

Members of Sean Dolan's GAC outside the clubhouse which was damaged in an arson attack last month.

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THE wind and rain batters against the windows of the hut in Celtic Park; it’s dark and cold outside but the resolve of the six men from Creggan based Gaelic Athletics Club, Sean Dolan’s would brighten up even the darkest of places.

THE wind and rain batters against the windows of the hut in Celtic Park; it’s dark and cold outside but the resolve of the six men from Creggan based Gaelic Athletics Club, Sean Dolan’s would brighten up even the darkest of places.

The Sean Dolan’s clubhouse was severely damaged in an arson attack in the week between Christmas and the New Year.

The fire rendered the clubhouse unusable and as a result the community suffered; two christening parties and one charity fundraiser had to be cancelled. It is believed that the repairs to the building could take months which means that any functions that were due to take place in the clubhouse will have to held elsewhere.

Danny Cassidy has been involved with the local GAA club for over 30 years. Danny’s a former player and is the current vice-chairperson. He says that despite the fire Sean Dolan’s will fighter harder than ever to promote and maintain Gaelic games and culture in the Creggan area of Derry.

“Sean Dolan’s is first and foremost part of the GAA family,” he says. “Each and every one of us is a proud member of the club and we volunteer all our hard work and time because we believe that the GAA has a big part to play in our community.”

Sean Dolan’s will celebrate their 70th anniversary in October of this year. They moved to Creggan from the Waterside area of Derry in 1973. They are the oldest GAC in the city.

In recent years Dolan’s have gone from strength to strength. They boast over 300 club members.

They have teams representing at U6, U8, U10, U12, U14, U16, minors, U21, seniors and they also have a ladies team.

Youth Development Officer for the club and current senior player, Ciaran Wilkinson, says that although everyone at Dolan’s wishes the fire had never happened he has been pleasantly surprised by the strength of feeling of those willing to help the club back to full health.

“Clubs from all over the world have contacted us since the fire to lend their support. We have had clubs from New York, San Francisco, Melbourne and Glasgow. Closer to home, clubs from Tyrone and Down have contacted us to see if there’s anything that they can do to help.

“We really appreciate the help and support of all those who have come forward in recent weeks and days. It gives us the strength and desire we need to build the club back up to what it used to be.”

Hugh Brady is club secretary and he says that although the club’s members have felt the full impact of the clubhouse closing it has also affected the surrounding community.

“Sean Dolan’s is a non profit making organisation. Any money we make is put right back into promoting Gaelic games and culture in Creggan.

“As a result of the fire we have had to cancel many functions and events that were organised months ago. Any money that we would have made out of the events would have went towards the club’s youth teams. Money like that helps us to buy good equipment for the youngsters to train with. All of that investment is now lost because of the fire.

“The clubhouse was seen as a hub for the local community. We had plans to open it over Christmas but obviously because of the fire we were not able to do that. It’s unfortunate because the only people who lose out here are those in the community and members of the club.”

Hugh says that over the years Sean Dolan’s has helped to make a difference to many young people’s lives. He urged anyone who thinks they can help the club to get in touch.

“Creggan is an area of high deprivation that has an effect on our young people. Since we moved here in 1973 we have been helping to keep young people on the straight and narrow and I am proud to say that some of the young people I was taking at U6 level many years ago are now coaching at the club. There’s a great team ethos at Sean Dolan’s. Even when people move away some of them keep up a relationship with us.

“In recent weeks, many former players who we haven’t heard from in a while, got in touch with us to see what it is they can do to help.

“We need all of the help that we can get and it’s our ambition to reopen the clubhouse in time for our 70th anniversary celebrations in October. But we are going to need all of the help that we can get so if anyone wants to get in contact, please do so.”

The club’s lawnmower was destroyed in the blaze. It was used to maintain the playing surface at Dolan Park. Danny Cassidy urged Derry City Council to come forward and help them to maintain the pitch until they are self-sufficient once again.

“The fire destroyed quite a lot of club equipment. Our lawnmower was rendered useless so hopefully someone from Derry City Council or somewhere else will come forward and help us out until we get back on our feet.

“We were totally self-sufficient before the fire but obviously we need all of the help we can get to get back to where we used to be. I have no doubt that with a little help we will get there sooner rather than later.”