Killala Squash Club Rejuvenation
Killala is long recognised as having a vibrant community ethos and a template for other communities across Ireland to emulate. The significant developments at the local squash club in recent years provide concrete evidence of this, demonstrating a solid commitment to the health, fitness and welfare of a community. A court which had been run-down and in poor condition a few short years ago, has been converted into a state-of-the-art playing facility, thanks, in part, to some central funding, but primarily due to the determination, expertise and generosity of people in the local community. Though Killala Squash Club still operates with just one court, it is now one of the largest clubs in Connacht with a current membership of 135 – 90 seniors and 45 juniors, and numbers are growing. A club initiated by Joe Murray (outgoing chairman) and Deirdre Hannick back in 2001 had 20 players participating in its first league. Fast forward to 2016 and the number has mushroomed to 80 – with 10 teams of 8, all playing in the various grades from 1 to 10.
Two significant factors were responsible for the growth and development of the club in recent years and its impact on the health and well-being of the wider community. Thanks to the work of John Gorman (Secretary and development) and others, the club was allocated a grant of €12,000 from the Sports Capital Programme in 2015. This was boosted by local sponsorship, fund-raising and an interest free loan from Killala Community Council, all of which provided the club with the €23,000 needed to upgrade the court to meet World Squash Federation standards. The club now has a squash court with top-class heating, lighting, ventilation (all thermostatically controlled) and a nice viewing area. Indeed, the freshness of the playing facility is invigorating, without the stuffy, locker-room atmosphere so evident in some sports facilities. The second, and perhaps more significant catalyst in the club’s progress, was the decision to commence a Junior club over two years ago. As Junior Co-Ordinator Marcella Holmes outlined in an entry to an Irish Times, Killala Squash Club A community’ s own Operation Transformation Competition (a parent’s perspective of the club): “. . . we started training juniors with the hope of setting up a Junior club; we started with a small group of children and, like myself when I first started, they struggled to hit the ball. But as the weeks went by we could slowly see their skills develop…
“The club now has 45 junior players ranging from 7 – 18 years, and this is just a few months after running its first ever Junior League last year. Indeed, many of these juniors are putting pressure on the senior players and moving quickly up the grades. Last year fifteen junior players participated in the Connacht Junior Closed League in Galway and the club came away with six prizes.
The club has fully affiliated to IRISH SQUASH with all the benefits of affiliation available to the club. This includes all the players having personal accident insurance, the club being covered under public liability insurance. Access to coaching programmes run by IRISH SQUASH and participation programmes run in local primary schools. Referee training is also available to affiliated clubs. An exhibition match featuring Brian Byrne & Sean Conroy, the Irish numbers 2 & 3, also took place in early April organised by IRISH SQUASH.
The success of the Killala project also serves to emphasis the positive impact the Sports Capital funding can make in a community like Killala, coupled with the work of people who have the determination and expertise to make a difference in their community. As the club grows, a second court will be necessary to cater for the demand and one feels as Killala Squash Club moves onwards and upwards this objective will be attainable soon.
More clubs should try be as proactive as Killala and the many others who are working hard to rejuvenate their clubs, encourage junior participation and promoting change for the better within their clubs. Well done to Killala for all their efforts!