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Start of major development for Rathfriland FC - Stand and deliver

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Start of major development for Rathfriland FC - Stand and deliver thumbnailAs the old stand at Iveagh Park is dismantled Howard Murray (centre) Rathfriland FC chairman flanked by committee member John McClimond and Dessie Davenport the Club's founder secretary take shelter

WORK has begun on a new 205-seater stand at the home of Rathfriland Football Club that will transform Iveagh Park into a top-class football ground.

Builders have moved on to the site, and it is expected that the new near-100,000 structure will be complete within a matter of weeks.

The build is the latest stage in the club's development, and comes at a time when its profile is at a high point, both on the field and in the Rathfriland community.

The Border Cup champions are flying high, attracting big crowds to their homeplace, and a new stand has become a necessity.

Chairman Howard Murray said the stand will take Iveagh Park to a new standard not seen at clubs above amateur level in Northern Ireland.

"The facilities will be right up there with Championship clubs, he told The Outlook.

"I can't think of any Amateur League clubs that have facilities like us, and this will take us a step up." The club has, however, suffered a hiccup in the preparation for the build, with additional work required on the foundations for the stand.

But that has been resolved and it is now full steam ahead for the construction, with Maghaberry firm Linton Solutions winning the contract.

"We had everything in place but then we encountered some difficulties," Mr Murray explained.

"We have to pile the foundation and hopefully the work will be commencing in a week's time.

"Weather and ground-conditions permitting, the stand should be completed by the end of October." And Mr Murray points out that the help of the club's neighbours - the Macauley family - hasn't gone unnoticed.

"We're indebted to them for offering access through their land to clear the site and for the delivery of materials.

"They've had no hesitation in helping us out." The small stand structure that has served the supporters of the club well for almost 20 years has been dismantled to make way for a bigger brother.

And the advice Mr Murray is for fans to keep an eye on the Saturday afternoon weather forecast for the next few weeks! "The warning is out - bring your umbrella," he joked.

The club has secured funding from several sources to pay for the project.

A Support Our Stand campaign, allowing friends and supporters of the club to pledge 100 towards the cost of a seat, writing their name into the club's history book in the process, has raised almost 20,000.

People's warmth towards the club has been an eye-opener for the chairman.

"The generosity of the people in Rathfriland and beyond has been astonishing - we couldn't put a measure on it.

"To my disbelief, people have been coming to us and that's been a big plus factor.

"We're down to the last 20 tickets - the last few chances for people to be a part of this.

"With the stand tickets, the assistance from Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council, plus an anonymous donor we're well on our way to paying for this.

"The piling has added a little bit of an extra burden to it but hopefully through functions and other fundraisers we'll save that very quickly." Looks like those umbrellas won't be needed for much longer!

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