The Odyssey Ends: By Joe Kennedy
Our very first pitch was Spring Lane, which was located where the housing estates adjacent to Dunnes Stores, Ballyvolane, is now located. Many a Sunday saw us meeting at Iona Green and walking with our entourage to play our earliest rivals of Dillons Cross and Ballyvolane. Our next port of call was Iona Park which had a great vantage point to view a match. Many a Sunday morning the high ground overlooking the pitch would be packed with people in their cars watching matches. The bane of our life with this pitch was the fact that there was one manhole which happened to be positioned right on the halfway line. Our first dressing room was Burke’s Chemist during it’s construction. It was with a certain amount of regret that eventually we had to move from Iona Park to Mayfield Heights. I suppose one could say that Mayfield Heights was our first real home ground. It was designated as a soccer ground by Cork Corporation. Not suitable for junior football it became a base for juveniles only. In later years with the help of Chris O’Neill and the diligent work of the late, Stephan Quinn , we acquired and renovated an old generation hut into a dressing rooms. Now we were light years ahead.
Our junior were really the nomads of the club and travelled far and wide to secure a pitch to enable us play football. Our fondest memories are of course of Church Road. Located directly across the road from Blackrock hurling and football club. This was a unique venue, the Mecca of football them. Here one had up to four pitches, dressing rooms and showers. The atmosphere was something special and never since replicated. From here the AUL grounds moved to Blackrock and finally to Mahon peninsula. All had their own atmosphere but none encapsulated the uniqueness of Church Road.
Not so long age the standards demanded by our governing bodies put pressure on clubs to find their own pitches with togging off facilities. Thus began another journey. We operated from a pitch in Glenthorn Heights and subsequently moved to a pitch near the Hegarty’s yard in Dublin Hill. For a while we shared a pitch with Ballyvolane, beyond where the Stirrup bar is now located. On special occasions we facilitated of the pitches at Old Christian complex in Rathcooney. We even went as far as Water Rock in Midleton for home advantage. In this search to find a home our most memorable move was to Knockraha, and Michie’s farm. Our agreement here was to bring in the hay in lieu of money. A good deal we thought at the time, but the urban farmers were not as bright as they thought. On one particular spring week I remember de-stacking all we had done due to a problem of instantaneous combustion. This we attributed to one, Peter Malone, not spreading enough deterrent in the first place to prevent bacteria growth. We were getting quiet knowledgeable for people who thought milk came from a bottle in the first place. Another very memorable event was our attempt to erect dressing rooms on this site. Through the help of Thomas Dennehy we bought, dismantled, and then transported two old prefabricated class rooms from the Ballinhassig area to Knockraha. It was a beautiful autumn weekend and we managed to get the units dismantled and erected again, almost, on the same day. The final word of warning from our chairman that night was that we should consider extra bracing. No need, it was suggested, as we headed for the Castle. Well that night we had something in the shape of a hurricane Charlie and our endeavors were spread half ways around Michie’s farm by morning.
Light was appearing at the end of the tunnel. We were coming home, so to speak, by the mid- eighties. This was of course our move to Silver Heights and with the kind permission of the Harriers association we had use of their meeting rooms as dressing rooms. Our juveniles were still playing at Mayfield Heights. In a sad way, we were like two separate clubs because one section never saw the other playing. It was at this point when an opportunity presented itself which seemed too good to be true. The prospects of our own pitches and clubhouse, all under the same roof, this would go a long way to securing our future. I must say that at this stage when the prospects of developing our own set up was proposed and the actual cost presented some people were seen heading off into the distance. It was suggested to us from more than one quarter that our ambitious plans were too big and a lesser plan would be more advisable. It was not acceptable that the “beasts of burden” were making demands. There is no better hiding place than in the mind, but we were fortunate to have a crop of people with enough determination, guile, intelligence and industriousness to take the project on. And so it was written.........


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