Tyrone club Clonoe launches fundraising flight for new complex

Light aircraft is top prize in raffle, gifted by former player

A Mistral light aircraft
Mistral plane The Mistral plane which Anthony Campbell has donated as first prize in a fundraising raffle for Clonoe O'Rahilly's.

MANY clubs have fundraising drives – but a Tyrone club has gone to another level with its fundraising ‘flight’.

Talk about having sky-high ambition – Clonoe O’Rahilly’s is giving away a microlight aircraft as first prize in its fundraising raffle to help pay for a major redevelopment project costing £900,000 overall.

Clonoe are benefiting from the generosity of one of their former players, Anthony Campbell, a keen amateur pilot who is no longer able to fly the Mistral aircraft solo due to illness.

There are also five second prizes, all offering flight experiences with an instructor, taking the lucky winners over various parts of the north.

Continuing the aerial theme, the raffle will take place at Clonoe club on Sunday, December 17 when a friend of Anthony’s will fly Santa Claus and two elves in on a helicopter to meet children from Clonoe and the surrounding community.

The 47-year-old Campbell has flown light aircraft for half his life, recalling: “”When I got into flying I wanted to become an instructor, which I did, down in Newtownards. I taught purely for a hobby. It’s not a job in Northern Ireland because of the weather. Getting the opportunities to get up there are few and far between.”

Anthony Campbell in his Mistral light aircraft
Anthony Campbell Anthony Campbell in his Mistral light aircraft

Unfortunately he was diagnosed with the debilitating Meniere’s Disease last year, although at first the frightening effects were unexplained:

“I was going to bed one night and suddenly it felt like someone pushing me to the floor. Next thing, severe vertigo for five or six hours, throwing up blood, horrendous – I thought I was dying. The attacks continued in severity, disabled me from even driving to my work.”

Even confirmation of the diagnosis from the top ENT consultant in the UK did not help, as Campbell recalled: “There’s no cure, no medication to help – sometimes it can burn out after 10 years, sometimes it can get progressively worse.”

Campbell’s reaction has been remarkable, however: “What can change is my reaction to it. Initially I felt my life was over. I fell deep into depression. I was suicidal. I planned my own death.

“I spoke to someone who, thankfully, phoned the doctor, phoned my dad and came up to the house straightaway to get me into hospital.

“Long story short, I’ve realised there are worse things I could have. I’m grateful that I had 25 years of flying – that’s something a lot of people will never get to do.

“I’ve a lot more gratitude, rather than sitting moping about things lost. I’m still here, can still enjoy a meal, go out for a walk – all the simple things in life are still here for me.”

Anthony decided to give back to his community, commenting: “My mum [Bridie] taught in Clonoe [Primary] School. All the committee members would be past students of mummy. The club gave me many years of joy and they’re very good to mummy.

“We’ve a big connection with the club. I’ve seen what they’ve been doing to involve children. I’ve a good job, all my music, I’m content where I’m at. Let’s do this raffle and raise some money for the club.

“At the start it was that ‘My life’s over, my life’s not worth living’ attitude - now it’s more one of gratitude.”

The raffle tickets for the Mistral all sold out within a week, Anthony noting: “The flying community is very close, they all stick up for one another.”

There are other connections too. Ticket purchasers include Proinsias O Rathaille, a grandson of ‘The O’Rahilly’, after whom the club has named – who has promised to re-raffle the top prize for the benefit of Clonoe if his name gets drawn out.

Others have made the same pledge and Campbell commented: “Running this raffle has been a real eye-opening and refreshing experience.

“Such a communal effort from people from all walks of life from all over NI, ROI, England, Scotland, and Wales. The generosity shown to Clonoe club has been beautiful to witness.”

A computer-generated image of how the new complex at Clonoe O'Rahilly's will look
Clonoe new complex A computer-generated image of how the new complex at Clonoe O'Rahilly's will look (JP O'Neill)

Clonoe’s major redevelopment plans will cost £900,000 to construct in total; the club has received planning permission for a completely new playing complex and outside area for families and young people to enjoy.

This new complex will include: two Gaelic football fields with floodlights, a football spectator stand, a new changing rooms and meeting rooms building, a children’s playground, wall ball/handball alley, outside coffee dock and picnic area, and a 3.5 km running track, also floodlit.

Club chairman Darren Devlin commented: “Ultimately, public funding for capital development infrastructure is just not available so we are making the decision to just get stuck in and build this new complex.

“We just want our local community to be a place we all enjoy, a great and safe place to be for young and old.”

Devlin noted the effort that has already gone in, but more money is required: “We have raised an additional £400,000 through fundraising and we as a club are committed to continue to work extremely hard with our dedicated members and local community to achieve this much needed additional playing capacity.

“Clonoe O’Rahillys have forged ahead and received planning permission for a completely new playing complex and outside area for families and young people to enjoy.

“With all this said, we are asking for support from the wider GAA community to consider visiting our Club Development GoFundme Page to help with our fundraising efforts.

The link to the Gofundme Page is:

Another step is to enlist Clonoe ex-pats around the world to seek funding from their business communities.

Anthony Campbell concluded that every single contribution, however small, will help Clonoe: “There are people I know on the bread-line who have put their hand in their pocket. Their little amount is worth 10 times mine. I’m comfortable. While the money thing may seem generous, it’s not as generous as people who are giving their last pennies.”