Since Sunday evening the FAI have been criss crossing the county as the festival of football, which culminates with Saturday’s FAI AGM in Mayo, got into gear. On Wednesday evening, they stopped off at Pat Quigley Park in Ballyheane to open the new astro-turf facility and the Mayo Advertiser, caught up with FAI Cheif executive John Delaney and former Irish international Ray Houghton to get their views on their week in Mayo.
John Delaney has been suitably impressed by the welcome the people of Mayo have given the FAI and the enthussiam for the game they have seen in the county over the week. “It’s been a great week so far, it feels like we’ve been all over the county. From Ballyhaunis with the intercultural event, Ballyglass, Claremorris and Swinford. The warmth of the recepetion we gothas been fantastic and the standard of the facilites here in Mayo are superb. All you have to look at is the ambitions of the clubs here to make sure that they have top-class facilities not just for their main teams but for the kids starting out because that’s what is really important. From the smallest areas and the smallest clubs, who are filled with great people who do great work. If you look at Partry they put up those dressing rooms in eight weeks, it’s amazing to see. It goes from local to national on Friday, when we turn our attention to the AGM, but the people of Mayo have all come out to suppport us all week. We’ve literally met thousands of people all week, all of them have been great. This year is our second year of bringing the AGM out on the road-last year was great in Kerry but this has surpassed it, I’d say.”
Hero of the past looking to the future
While many of the kids who were getting Ray Houghton to sign their jerseys in Quigley Park will have been too young to remember his heroics in the green jersey, he has enjoyed his stay in the county. “It’s been eye opening, it’s only when you come to places like this and you hear where they have come from and see the facilities that they have got. Scrimping and scaping at the start and now they have fantastic facilites for the whole community. You also have to see that they just had the over 40s playing there showing that it’s there to be used and enjoyed by all around. The people of Mayo have been great, it should be told the the work and the voluntary work that is going on by people in communities to make facilities like this available for everyone especially all the kids, all you have to do is look around all week and see all the kids out there playing away and enjoying themsleves. We’ve been out and around all week over the county and sometimes very early in the day and the people have come out to meet us. This doesn’t happen very easy and a lot of people have to put in an awful lot of work to make sure clubs survive and flourish.”
For one man this week has been the culmination of his efforts to promote the game in the county for years, which eventauly saw him become the President of the FAI in the past and Pat Quigley was an immensely proud man about the whole week when he spoke to the Mayo Advertiser. “Had a wonderful week, had great attendances everywhere we went. It’s great not alone for myslef but for the Mayo League to see the efforts that all the clubs have made to welcome the FAI to Mayo. Despite what has been reported on some papers about squalor, anyone who goes around the clubs in Mayo can see that the facilities are second to none. We’re extremely proud of all the clubs in Mayo. When we set down the criteria it was tough on clubs but they trusted us and have thanked us for it since. It’s a great honour for the Mayo League and all the clubs to host this festival of football and hopefully it will be a stepping stone to making us a better and stronger league going forward.”