Mullingar RFC will enter the next level for a progressive club when it plays its first ever Leinster League game under its brand-new €220,000 floodlights this Saturday (November 7 ).
The historic visitors will be the men of the Gorey 1st XV and the kick-off is scheduled for 8pm.
The task of curtain-raising is to be given to the U-21 team, the Mullingar Mavericks, who entertain their counterparts from Portarlington at 6pm.
The clubhouse will be open from 5.30pm and adding to the festivities will be a number of 10-minute mini-games to allow the next generation begin to get the feel.
“This development will be of huge benefit to the club as it is currently having great difficulty retaining players in the move from youth to senior level,” said club president, Mr Brendan Leahy.
“Between work commitments and having to return to college on Sunday evenings, the ability to host matches on a Friday and Saturday night will make it possible to retain these players and allow the club to reap the benefits of its thriving youths section,” he added.
At present, Mullingar have a team for every age from under eight to u-14s, two teams each for u-15s, -16s and -17s, as well as an u-19 and u-21 team.
However, even with the health of 15 feeder teams, the club was finding it difficult in the last few seasons to fulfil fixtures for the Second XV and it is hoped the arrival of the floodlights will begin to improve the club's player retention.
The lights will concentrate on the newly re-drained second pitch and each stanchion has an array of extra lighting fixed to the rear to extend the illumination of the training areas for the massive Youths section.
A national Lottery grant of €120,000 has been received by the club towards the capital cost and over 60 per cent of the additional €100,000 has already been raised by the club through its innovative ‘Buy your club a pint’ fundraiser.
Over the last number of months the club has asked members for a fiver a week for two years which equates to the price of a pint every week for this period. According to club treasurer Tony Doolin, only another 80 signatures will see the club crest this hill. Standing order forms will be available at the clubhouse on the night for those who haven't yet signed up.
Once this is achieved, Mullingar RFC hopes to extend the facilities at the club over the next couple of years to include disabled access toilets and women's changing rooms.