UNLESS Finn Harps’ long-awaited stadium finally gets off the ground, there will be no senior football in Donegal.
That is the stark message from the Ballybofey-based club as things are coming to a head in relation to a proposed move to a new ground, less than a kilometre away from the outdated and not-fit-for-purpose Finn Park, which has been their home since they entered the League of Ireland in 1969.
Speaking at a pre-season media briefing, the club’s commercial officer Aidan Campbell did not hold back as he highlighted the seriousness of the situation.
“If we do not have a new stadium, we will not have a Finn Harps,” he declared.
“The future of the club depends on getting a new stadium.”
However, the process has been incredibly drawn-out. The sod was cut for the new stadium back in May 2008, and there have been numerous legal and financial hurdles since then.
“We have been living on borrowed time. We are at a crossroads and it is very simple,” said Campbell.
“There has to be a new stadium for there to be a Finn Harps, and for there to be senior football. Everyone knows Finn Park is not up to spec and it has been going on for too long. Now is crunch time.”
The club is expected to announce details of a massive fundraising drive in the coming days.
Last July, the club was asked by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to review its costings for revised plans for the new Donegal Community Stadium in light of rising prices.
The revised 5,500 capacity stadium is set to cost around €7.3 million. Government and FAI grants have been secured, as well as backing from Donegal County Council and the Western Development Council, but Harps may have to raise up €1.2 million themselves.
Harps chairman Ian Harkin has stated that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the club and is hoping the public in Donegal as well as the diaspora will back the drive for the funding that must come from the club.
To date an estimated €1.2 million has already been spent on the new stadium project, and in 2014 partial construction of a main stand took place. However, minimal on-site work has happened since.
The days are clearly numbered for Finn Park.
The club is spending significant funds annually to maintain the old crumbling infrastructure. The clubhouse is prone to frequent leaks, the outdated floodlights are over 20 years old and the prefab changing rooms were only meant to be a short-term solution during Covid.
This year marks the 70th anniversary for Harps – whose biggest honour remains a Brendan Bradleyinspired victory over St Patrick’s Athletic in the FAI Cup final in 1974.
Harps begin their 2024 First Division campaign away to Longford Town on Saturday.