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Three Sports Capital Fund applications were returned in a bid to bolster sporting amenities and facilities for the benefit of mental health in Clare post lockdown.

These were for the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) in Active Kilrush, the running track in Lees Road and wheelchair accessibility in Shannon Town Centre’s playground.

Under current restrictions, facilities remain closed except for access to parks for personal exercise. Team training and team sports are not permitted, whilst leisure centres remain closed.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the Social Development SPC, Clare County Council Senior Executive Officer Siobhan McNulty informed that the upgrade of the astro turf facility in Cloughleigh has been tendered and will be awarded following the lifting of Level 5 restrictions.

In addition, funding awarded in 2017 through the Sports Capital Grant for the Tim Smyths dressing project and funding awarded in 2019 for tiling in Active Ennis will also see completion post lockdown.

Trade Unions Representative Tommy Guilfoyle stressed that “Coming out of the lockdown, sports amenities and recreation is going to be a saviour to a lot of people, for bringing their current mental health, which is currently at rock bottom, back into the sphere of health and well-being to where we once were.”

Calls for consistency across the county was another issue raised by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG), who highlighted a record 118 applications for Clare were submitted in this year’s round for Sports Capital Grant funding, noting a 30 per cent increase nationally, up from 2,200 to 3,100 in comparison to last year.

The partnership between Clare County Council and Clare Local Sports Partnership was highlighted as addressing the mental wellbeing and challenges facing people during the lockdown. €70,000 of the Return to Sports Grant Scheme was circulated to 75 clubs around the county, in preparation for the return to activity.

Sports and Recreation representative Tim Forde commented: “Everyone is preparing for this return to activity and hopefully the government will match that enthusiasm of the applicants and find the money to finance everything we are trying to do.”

It was also stressed that the local authority must provide 20 to 30 per cent in matched funding and that as applications are approved, further sources of funding must be identified.

A countywide policy for sports and recreation should be considered, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) believed. “You cannot have parts of the county well served and other parts being the poor relation. We are a county wide policy committee and there is a duty on us to embrace all areas.”

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