Northern Ireland news

Martin O'Neill objects to plan for youth football pitches in Co Donegal

Former Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Chris McNulty

FORMER Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has lodged an objection against a plan for new football pitches by a youth club in Co Donegal.

Dunfanaghy Youths FC, who have been homeless for almost two years, made an application for an ambitious development at Lurgabrack, Dunfanaghy in March.

It includes a playing pitch, training pitch, spectator stand, clubhouse and associated facilities.

O'Neill, originally from Co Derry, lives in London but owns Horn Head House, a derelict 18th century country house in the area.

In a written submission to Donegal County Council, he said his primary issue concerned environment and safety.

"Ultimately Horn Head, a secluded and protected area, with especially high scenic amenity status, is simply not appropriate for a large public gathering facility, ie a stadium," he said.

"First, the environmental impact of erecting stadia in this area of scenic beauty must be recognised. Horn Head is renowned not just locally, not just in Donegal, but also throughout Ireland and would be adversely affected by this proposed development."

The former Northern Ireland international said natural wildlife "would be seriously affected".

"Access and safety will be compromised by any such stadium construction," he added.

"Further pollution concerns are obvious: traffic congestion, floodlighting and noise pollution."

Dunfanaghy Youths have been homeless since being served with a notice to quit the pitch at Kill they had been playing on for more than 25 years.

They cater for boys and girls up to Youth League (under-18) level.

In recent times they have been using a pitch at Falcarragh for some home games and the community pitch in Creeslough for small-sided games and some training.

The club - who had more than 130 players registered in 2019 - said the proposed development was its "one and only option" for a home.

O'Neill's submissions, dated May 5, include a seven-page document in which he outlines his objections under several headings including environmental concerns, contravention of development plan guidance, the site's planning history, traffic and pedestrian access, and changing the character of Horn Head.

He wrote: "If permitted, the development would be in use on a daily basis. Long winter evenings would necessitate the use of floodlighting which will have direct impeach on wildlife and the nearby residents.

"The single file lane way upon which is is proposed the public and developers will access the stadium is the same access serving only five existing properties and it would certainly be unable to cope with what is being proposed.

"Serious practical problems for this very private area will arise; as it is likely the public would use the lane way as a turning and parking opportunity on match and training days."

Donegal County Council said a decision was due on July 7.

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