Field Of Dreams
For any sports club or organisation the goal of owning its own premises has always been a cherished one. It is also true to say that more than any other this has been a core value for GAA clubs the length and breadth of the country and indeed a story of spectaculat success. For some clubs this has been achieved by the present generation, for other some thime further back while here in Milford it was the officers, sommittee adn club supporters of the 1950s who put an end to the moving from temporary pitch to temporary pitch and the renting of fields by purchasing the present grounds and clearing the associated debt within two years.
The early decades of Milford GAA club had seen movement through many pitches most notably one at O'Mahonys Hardingville which had been the venue for the famed Church Tournaments of the 1930s involving the top teams of Cork and Limerick. A month after their historic win in the 1936 All-Ireland Seniour Final, a Mick Mackey led Limerick team short just two of their All-Ireland stars lined out in a Milford Church Tournament game at O'Mahony's field against a Cork side which featured Mick Fitzgibbon of Milford at full-back. A man who attained great distinction on the playing arena and further afiled, former Taoiseach, Jach Lynch often referred to an Ahane V Glen Rovers Milford Church tournament contest also played at O'Mahonys's filed as being among the greatest games he had ever played in.
Nevertheless, when the officers adn members of Milford GAA club sat down in early 1948 to plot a course for their years activities foremost in their thoughts once again was the all to frequent search for a suitable field to rent as a playing pitch. Preference was expressed for a move back to O'Riordans of Kilbolane where the club had been based for the first half of the 1940s before moving to a filed owned by Mr W.J. Broderick in Scart for 1946 and '47. However, the hoped for field at O'Riordans had already been leased and it was by this happy chance that the members then directed their interest towards the present location, then part of Milford Co-Op Creamery farm. By March of 1948 Chairman, Michael Hennigan was in a position to propose to a committee meeting that the club move to the Creamery field at a rent of £20 per year and so though they weren't to know it the members would be literally pulling up sticks for the last time. For the first two seasons as tenants in 1948 and 1949 the pitch ran at ritght angles to the present pitch but in early 1950 the alignment was changed and has remained thus since.
Early in 1952 a group of Avondhu gaels including Tadhg O'Connell of Milford came together and formed the North Cork Juvenile Board and the consequent fielding of underage teams led to much increased usage of the pitch borne out by the affiliating of eight teams in 1954 as opposed to just two in 1950 and this allied to the central location were the main factors that motivated club members to set about purchasing this property as a permanent home. From the outset the portents were good: Club Chairman Michael O'Gorman was an ardent supporter of the venture, secondly the club was now benefitting from the enthusiasm of young and committed members many of whom had been part of the historic 1946 North Cork Novice Hurling and 1947 North Cork Minor Hurling and Novice Football winning teams and also crucially it was recognised that much goodwill towards the GAA club existed among the potential vendors, the Board of Milford Co-Op Creamery.
In September 1953 a formal approach via letter was made to the Creamery Board expressing a desire to purchase the three acres of ground being rented by the club at the time. Unanimous agreement for sale was secured at a cost of £120 – this £40 per acre being the same rate at which the Co-Op had purchased the land from the Hannigan family some ten years earlier. The club were to pay all costs associated with the transfer and the property was to be fenced off with concrete posts and wire.
The following is the text of the reply sent by the club accepting the terms offered by the Creamery Board. Milford 15/10/1953 Secretary Milford Co-Op Creamery Ltd. Dear Sir, I am instructed by my committee to acknowledge your letter of the 17th and to inform you that our club are most grateful for your offer of a playing pitch. The terms on which you have offered same are quite acceptable and the members have expressed their appreciation of the great sportsmanship displayed by the members of your committee. The Playing Pitch will provide a very long felt need for us, as it will be the means of keeping Gaelic games alive in the parish. As it is the intention of this club to have the grounds vested in the GAA we have made enquires about procedure and we now await news from the Co. Board. On receipt of same we will again communicate with you. Yours Faithfully, Hon Sec., Milford GAA Club.
Mr Liston, Solr., Charleville was appointed to act on behalf of the club and the Co-Ops interests were as usual represented by Owen Binchy. The boundary of the property being transferred was marked out by Mr Tom Villiers and almost 200 concrete posts needed to enclose this area were cast in the yard at the rear of Mr Tadhg O'Sheas house across the road from the pitch. Michael O'Gorman, Michael Hannigan and Denis Madigan were appointed the first local trustees of the property and a delegation from the club travelled to a meeting of the Munster Council in Limerick in a bid to secure a generous grant towards the purchase of the grounds. The euphoria that surrounded the securing of ownership of the playing pitch was best illustrated at the AGM of Milford GAA club in January 1954 when all of the officers of the club were unanimously returned to their positions en bloc with even the failure of any of the five affiliated hurling teams to win a championship game in 1953 not allowed to dampen the prevailing mood.
In the preceding years of the 1940s and early 1950s the club had been funded by a series of Raffles, 45 Drives, Hurling Tournaments, Church Gate Collections, Staging of Plays and Ceilis and hiring of Dance Bands such as Pat O'Callaghan, Mallow; Castle Dance Band, Castlemagner; Mary Jee Hickey, Milstreet; Hugh Cahill, Buttevant; Mitchelstown Melody Makers; Johnny Mc Mahon, Limerick and the Devon Dance Band, Newcastle West.
Funds raised were wxpended on purchase of hurleys and balls, rent of playing fields, hire of transport to matches, insurance and provision for injured players leaving income from the assorted sources just about covering incoming bills. To prepare fro the purchase of the field a more substatial source of revenue would have to be found by treasurer Ned O'Connell and his colleagues and so in 1953 the club ran two carnivals, an indoor one in February and an outdoor one in August. The indoor carnival proved a particulatly successful venture and so was repeated over the following years. These carnivals ran for ten days during Lent with the approval of the Parish Priest and featured such games and gimmicks as Pongo, Roulette, Bagatelle, Hoopla, Silver Land, Toll Them In, Derby and a Prize Stall and Shooting Gallery. The success of these indoor carnivals is reflected in the depositing of £60 and £85 in the Post Office following the 1955 and '56 events respectively. These carnivals neccessitated a huge amount of work from all involved with hundreds of prizes to be procured, these generally being purchased from Hurleys of Charleville in the early years and later from Larry Brosnan, Milford. Games and stalls had to be manned nightly often until after 2 a.m. And proceeds counted penny by penny before members could depart the hall and snatch a few hours sleep before working on the following day and repeating the effort all over again.
During 1954 the club also ran three hurling tournaments and expense was somewhat reduces by the winning of a set of hurleys at a tournamebt in Feenagh following three games with Kileedy and a final vicorty over Castletownconyers. 1955 saw the fund raising intensified with tichet sellers travelling to outside parishes selling tickets for a first prize of a suite of furniture in a raffle to be held in conjunction with the carnival while at home parishioners showed their appreciation for the clubs efforts in record Church Gate Collection receipts of £46. In July of this year when spending some this hard earned money on a new set of jerseys the club also took the decision to change to blue with white cuffs and collars from the blue and gold worn by the club at that time.
By now the club was in a strong position financially with the purchase price of the pitch well in hand and so in January 1956 Mr Liston, Solr. Acting on behalf of the club was instructed to close the purchase of the field and to pay the fee to Mr. Binchy Solr. for the Co-Op. Some dasy later Mr. Maurice noonan Club President triumphantly addressed the AGM of Milford GAA saying “we have now procured and paid for a playing pitch which will be reamain a monument after our departing” and how right he was.
A Munster Council grant of £100 also came throught in January 1956 and helped the club with other costs associated with the pitch, most notably the erection of the entrance in 1959 and 1960. Various other improvements and upgrades have been carried out through th intervening decades with the grounds now used more than ever by all ages of hurling, football and camoige teams. For the young who play the games and the older folk who watch with pride it is truly the filed of dreams and a fitting monument to the foresight and endeavour fo those people with vision and vigour of over fifty years ago.
In 2001 the pitch was named Pairc Mhic Ghiobiun in honour of the late Mossie Fitzgibbon and his trojan work to promote Gaelic games among the youth of the parish. This was a fitting tribute to Moss and all who worked with him and indeed to those who taday follow in their footsteps by fostering among our youth a love of Gaelic games.