Galway sport is sprinkled with unsung heroes, who quietly carry about crucial roles in their communities.
Pat Spellman’s efforts for the people of Ballybane and Castle Park is worthy of the utmost respect and recognition. Not that Spellman wants the praise or plaudits, nonetheless Spellman is delighted to be involved, trying to improve things for the next generation.
“I wouldn't call it work, I enjoy every bit of it and it gets me out of bed in the morning, what else would I be doing, it is a pleasure to do it,” Spellman says about his involvement with East United.
The pitch and dressing rooms at East United’s facility in Castle Park is a place for the community, it is about much more than just sport.
“It is not just soccer, we have guys coming down to volunteer, helping,” Spellman explains. “They just want to help in the community. We have a CE scheme almost set up through GRETB and Noel Connolly in Terryland.
“They will be going into the community. Hopefully this year we will have enough to go around the community doing flower beds and whatever with the help of Ballybane Men's Shed. We have a good group of lads who come in for a cup of coffee and a chat every morning.
“We are open most mornings between seven and nine, we are there until lunchtime and back again in the evening. You will get guys coming in for a cup of tea, have a chat.”
Ballybane Sports and Community Ltd was set up with Spellman optimistic about the future of the area providing facilities can be developed further.
“It is a great community thing, that is what it should be about,” he adds. “It shouldn't be just about playing football and going home - that is part of parcel of it, but it should be about a lot more than what we have. The Men's Shed should be more involved, but they don't have the facilities at the moment.
“Other groups, like theatre groups in Ballybane don't have a place to go or an office to call their own - they are all involved with us. We set up a company Ballybane Sports and Community Development Ltd. and it is beginning to take off. St Columba's Credit Union got involved and SCCUL, Mike Smyth when he was with SCCUL got heavily involved to try to push it a bit.
“It is slow, but it is taking off slowly, but surely. Hopefully in the next few years we will have more than just soccer. That there will be other sports and maybe indoor facilities for the winter, not just for kids, but for young and old. That is what our aim would be.”
Spellman is aware of the possibilities that exist for East United. Significant success was attained at junior level and the club is beginning to stir again.
“When we started back in 2003 we started with five underage teams,” Spellman recalls. “We didn't particularly start with any age group, we threw a few balls over the wall, and off it went. Within weeks we had 150 or 160 kids, we put them in leagues the following season.
“We had five or six teams in leagues, our biggest problem was you'd have a few good players, who would be gone the following season to a different club. We struggled then and ended up with a junior and a minor team in the long run. The minor faded away, we had a great junior team for a good few years.
“I'm not sure of this, but we are probably the only team that went from the bottom league straight to the top in four straight seasons, winning three of them divisions, we had three or four cups too. The only cup we don't have is the premier one, that is something to aim for.”
Restoring the underage set-up is an objective, but also a challenge. “We have set up a bit of an academy with the help of Galway United - Gary Traynor and Xavi coaching for eight weeks,” Spellman says.
“It was brilliant to see it, hopefully in the next few weeks we can set up something for the girls to continue on every Saturday through the winter. Our biggest problem is getting coaching, our club will take off in the next year, this will make a huge difference in Ballybane.”