Galway hockey clubs are up in arms over the proposed loss of a playing pitch in Oranmore, which is used by players throughout the county.
A campaign, entitled Misneach Le Cheile Connacht Hockey, hopes to stop the planned change from the current 2g pitch to a 3g surface, which is unsuitable for hockey, as part of a new sports complex in Oranmore. It leaves only one full sized pitch in Galway city suitable for the sport.
In addition the organisers are seeking equity to access to sports pitches and the development of better facilities for Connacht Hockey.
Kevin Keane, president, and Aisling Keogh of Connacht Hockey, says the removal of the 2g surface in Oranmore removes the sport from the Calasanctius School, Oranmore, and directly affects one of its under 16 Irish Junior Age Group goalkeepers.
"By removing her training ground and possibly the sport from her school, it is inadvertently taking her future hockey career plans and opportunities to maximize her training and exposure to her chosen sport, one which she is excelling at. Not only that, but it’s removing yet more women from sport. This young player, as with every other player in our clubs, should be supported and not stripped of opportunity."
While the retention of the Oranmore pitch will not solve or save the sport, the organisers say it takes the overflow from the main pitch and is utilised by five clubs, as well as numerous schools.
"What we do need is the completion of the long overdue project at Millers Lane on the west side of the city. What we do need is a multi-sport facility in the west of Ireland on the east side of the county to bring sport, tourism and money into the region, as well as solving the long-awaited issue of hockey, athletics and other neglected minority sports.
The two says it is "absolutely soul destroying for everyone involved to see the sport effectively extinguished to place well catered for sports ahead of our sport". Other sports utilise astro pitches as secondary training facilities unlike hockey, which it is its primary facility, they say.
The campaigners say the Irish women’s hockey team brought the sport into the homes and hearts of the people of Ireland when they won silver at the World Cup in London and fought for a place in the Olympics. As a result children wanted to play hockey, but the clubs were forced to turn away some 250 young girls because they could not cater for more numbers.
"Our landscape hasn’t changed in 30 years, and all we want is equity and opportunities for our members to play the sport they love."
They say Sport Ireland has responded positively and is supporting the Connacht Hockey campaign for women in sport and access to correct and safe facilities, as is Hockey Ireland.
"We want to be heard as Women in Sport and as a sports community. All we want is fair play and an opportunity to keep our sport alive."