by Jerome O'Connell
published in the Limerick Leader
FLOODLIT games in various sports are on the increase throughout the country, however one of those leading the way is Desmond league junior soccer club, Abbeyfeale Utd.
Since the start of this season it has been the choice of the progressive West Limerick club to play all their home games under lights in Riverside Park at Railway Road, Abbeyfeale.
Remarkably not all clubs in the Desmond League are in favour olub push-on.
"It is a great benefit at this time of the year, especially if we want to play challenge games on mid-week nights. Lights from a couple of the poles also shine onto the top field for training," explained club chairman Frank Nelligan.
Based on the Kerry border, the club cater for 11 underage teams, two junior sides and a women's team.
Denis Behan, who played with Abbeyfeale from U10 to Youth level, is now with Cork City. He is the only player to play with Ireland while with a Desmond League club.
Donal Casey and Terence O'Mahony are the men in charge of this season's junior sides as the club bid to add to their Premier Division title of 2000 and their Desmond Cup success of 1986 and 1996.
"We have just under seven acres, including the car park. Our next development is to build a stand and then we hope to purchase land for an all-weather pitch," outlined the chairman.
John Kelliher is the current captain of the 'A' team.
"It is fabulous to be able to play games on Saturday night. We have a young team and guys can head back early to college on Sundays and it also lets fellas enjoy more of the weekend," said Kelliher.
"Soccer in Abbeyfeale has now taken centre stage and the crowds on Saturday night are clearly bigger than the Sunday matches," he said.
"Any team we have played said that they were used to the lights after their warm-up."
To date close to €500,000 has been spent on the installation of the lights and the drainage of the playing surface.
Club chairman Frank Nelligan outlined that they received separate grants of €100,000 for drainage and €105,000 for the lights.
"We are regarded as being in a disadvantaged area, so we only had to raise 20 per cent of the funds ourselves," explained the chairman.
The weekly lotto is the club's main source of income, but a fund-raising Dog Night is planned for March 19 in Tralee.
"The community have been very supportive and we are getting great feedback from what they see us doing."
The chairman was loud in praise of the hard-working club committee and in particular Noel Keane and also Jim Cahill, who is groundsman and works in conjunction with the FAS Scheme.
"For the last few years the committee has been very good and we have got a good few new members. The club is also very appreciative of the local TD's, John Cregan and Michael Collins for the work they have done for us," said Nelligan.
"The lights were erected in February 2004 by contractor John Keane of Castleisland.
"We didn't play under lights at that stage because we were getting a job done on the grass on the main pitch," explained the chairman.
He added: "I don't know of any other junior club in the county that has lights to match standard".
At last June's AGM of the Desmond League, the club proposed to play all home matches at night.
However following a vote, it was decided that each game would be decide on an individual basis.
"We were disappointed we weren't allowed play all games at night," recalled Nelligan,
The lights are 350 lux, which is above the accepted standard - there is no adjustment needed, it is just like daylight."
Already this season a number of clubs were asked to play, but refused.
The club try to play junior games on Saturday evenings and youths games on Friday evenings.
The honour of playing the first competitive game went to the youths last September.
The game was against Carrig Celtic in the Munster Youths Cup and Sean Buck went into the history books, scoring twice in the 2-0 victory.
The club chairman said that there has been nothing but positive feedback from clubs that have opted to play under lights.
"There has been a positive response - clubs found it to be great."