Labour MEP for Ireland South Phil PrendergastFine Gael’s Sean Kelly have congratulated Thurles Town Council for becoming Ireland’s first European Town of Sport.
The award from the European Capital of Sport Association is given to towns that are, “positive and ethical examples of social policy that needs to be implemented in other contexts”.
Speaking from the awards ceremony in Brussels last Thursday, Ms Prendergast said: “I am absolutely delighted to see Thurles become the first European Town of Sport in the country. This is a most fitting award for the birthplace of the GAA”.
“My personal congratulations go to the Mayor of Thurles Cllr John Kennedy; Thurles Town Council; North Tipperary County Council; LIT and Shannon Development for all their hard work in getting this recognition for Thurles”.
“The town has a wealth of sporting infrastructure with Semple Stadium and the facilities at Thurles Town FC being just an example of the many wonderful facilities available in the town.”
Seán Kelly MEP and former GAA President said: “It is a fantastic result for Thurles to be awarded European Town of Sport for 2012.
“I congratulate you on your work in achieving this award. I have no doubt that Thurles will have an excellent programme of events planned for 2012 and I look forward to helping out wherever I can.”
It is estimated that sports events in the Shannon Region will generate an estimated €70m this year.
Speaking about the significance of the award for Thurles, Brian Keating, Shannon Development’s Regional Manager for Tipperary and Offaly said: “We are delighted to be the first town in Ireland to be awarded the title of European Town of Sport for 2012, following a successful submission from Shannon Development, North Tipperary County Council, LIT Tipperary and North Tipperary Sports Partnership. This award comes at a time when Limerick’s reign as a European City of Sport 2011 draws to a close.”
The matter was discussed in full at the monthly meeting of Thurles Town Council this week when Town Manager Mr Matt Shortt revealed that a steering group will be put in place to put together a programme for the coming year to celebrate the event.
Mr Shortt joined with Thurles Mayor John Kennedy in congratulating all of the groups involved in the project which, he said, blew away the judging panel.
“The presentations we had were absolutely outstanding and the judges could not get over the enthusiasm of each one of them,” said Mayor Kennedy who added that the link between the GAA and the VEC with the Dome, and the use of school facilities in the Ursuline by the wider community, were also major plusses for the town. He added that the Ursulines are also developing five tennis courts at present as part of their redevelopment which can be used by the general public after school hours - another major boost to the town.
Mr Shortt added, “It was only when we sat down and worked out precisely what facilities we have in the town that we realised how lucky we are. We did five site visits to the likes of Semple Stadium, Peake Villa, the Urusline Secondary School, but we could have done ten had we had the time. The Racecourse, Greyhound Stadium, Golf Club - we didn’t even get to these facilities at all.
“The big thing now for us is to get a programme together with the view to bringing people into the town and increasing bed nights - that’s the big challenge,” Mr Shortt said.
Members of the council were lavish in their praise for all those who were involved in the process with Mr Ciaran Lynch of the LIT, Tipperary having played a major role.
There was also great praise for the spirit and ethos of volunteerism which is evident right throughout the town in all of the sporting organisations. Cllr Gerard O’Brien extended that praise to all organisations and said that Thurles, although renowned for it’s sporting achievements, is also a leader in many other spheres with volunteers doing huge work to drive organisations, associations and clubs forward.
Cllr Jim Ryan revealed that Cricket Ireland is to hold a series of workshops in the town on foot of the recognition received at European level and he welcomed the plan to bring 20 coaches to Thurles in the new year. This, he said, is how Thurles can benefit from being the European Town of Sport and he also mentioned the Thurles Sarsfields International Hurling Festival as another example of same.