UEFA teams attract a huge crowd to Ferrycarrig Park for qualifying round – New Ross Standard, September 10 2016

The stands in Ferrycarrig Park were jam packed last week as the UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifying round officially kicked off.

The league got in full swing on Tuesday as Wexford Youths faced BIIK-Kazygurt from Kazakhstan, ending in a 3-1 loss to the home team. Later in the week, they faced Lithuanian team Gintra, with a final score of 2-1 to the opposing team. The final match for Wexford Youths ended with a 0-0 result when they played against Moldovan team ARF Criuleni.

Matches involving some of the visiting teams also took place in Waterford Regional Sports Centre.

It was a historic occasion for Wexford Youths who hosted the teams from Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Moldova during their stay in the Southeast. This marked the first time that the league has ever been hosted in Ireland, making it a big step forward for women’s football in Wexford and Ireland as a whole.

FAI Wexford Development Officer William Doyle said that the event attracted plenty of attention which he hopes will boost interest in women’s football.

‘The stand for the first match was nearly full for the first time this season and that includes the men’s football,’ he said.

‘There was a great buzz around the grounds. A lot of young girls were there to watch the games and many of them were saying that the players were role models of theirs.’

According to William, the standard of play was fantastic throughout, while the visiting teams also showed a great deal of professionalism.

‘Even though the time difference between us and them is only about five hours, the Kazakhstan team arrived six days earlier to make sure that they weren’t jetlagged. That just shows the level of professionalism that they have,’ he added. ‘Unfortunately, they beat Wexford Youths 3-1 but it was a very good game.’

During a Civic Reception in County Hall on Monday, the qualifying teams and coaches were officially welcomed to the county by Chairman of Wexford County Council Paddy Kavanagh and representatives from the FAI and Wexford Youths FC. President of the FAI Tony Fitzgerald and Director of National Competitions Fran Gavin were also there to honour the occasion.

Chairperson Cllr Paddy Kavanagh welcomed all of the teams in their respective languages at the opening ceremony.

‘It is a privilege for Wexford County Council to offer our support to Wexford Youths FC, your hosts for this competition, and I thank the Club sincerely for allowing us to be part of this wonderful occasion. Wexford is extremely proud of our long and illustrious sporting tradition, a tradition which is important both socially and economically,’ he added.

The recently opened Talbot Suites at Stonebridge and the Talbot Hotel served as the official accommodation partner for the visitors. Over 150 players, management and officials were put up in the hotel and suites during the course of their stay.

‘The players have has only positive things to say about the Talbot,’ said William, who said that the success of such a partnership might lead to other international sporting events being held in Wexford in future.

Later in the week, the teams and coaches also took advantage of excursions to Hook Head, Loftus Hall and various other tourist attractions.

The announcement earlier this year that Wexford was to host the UEFA qualifiers received huge support across the town, particularly after plans to host it last year fell through due to a lack of suitable accommodations. Speaking with this newspaper in July, William Doyle said that the visit would provide opportunities for local businesses and local people.

‘It’s a huge opportunity for people to see European football,’ he said. ‘There is often a negative stigma surrounding women’s football and people don’t give it a chance. When people do come out and watch the teams play, people soon see that they are very good at football. In fact, it can often be more exciting [than men’s football] with more goals and more chances created.’

(First published in the New Ross Standard newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/newrossstandard/news/uefa-teams-attract-a-huge-crowd-to-ferrycarrig-park-for-qualifying-round-35023364.html)

Taking Centre Stage – Bray People, September 10 2016

In part one of this special report, Amy Lewis looks at Wicklow’s role in the film industry – who works in it, what it means for the garden County and what can be done to improve it.

Wicklow has served as the backdrop for hundreds of big-name films and TV series and the county has certainly reaped the rewards.

It is estimated that the film industry is worth €70m to the Wicklow economy. However, Wicklow Film Commissioner Vibeke Delahunt reckons that the reality is much higher.

‘Unfortunately there is a lack of data available. We have heard very conservatively that it could be worth about €70m every year but I think it is much more,’ she explained. ‘The industry has a huge ripple effect across the county and its services.’

Following the construction of Ardmore Studios in 1958, more international and homegrown producers began to flock to the county. Recognising the county’s potential in the world of film, Wicklow County Council looked to our neighbours in the states for ideas on to harness it and allow it to flourish. The result was the establishment of the Wicklow Film Commission in 1992 – the first of its kind in the country.

‘Because Wicklow was unique in Ireland with Ardmore, and now also with Ashford, it was felt by the county manager at the time that setting one up would be good for economic development and promoting Wicklow.’

The Wicklow Film Commission’s roles include promoting the county as a film location, liaising with filmmakers and providing them with various services and facilities.

‘We have had up years as well as down years such as in the 1990s and even after 2000. But in the last five or six years, production based here has gone up,’ said Vibeke, who added the opening of Ashford Studios and additional Film Factory at Ardmore means that production is going up all of the time.

Wicklow’s long showreel of films includes ‘Braveheart’, ‘Michael Collins’, ‘Excalibar’, ‘The Guard’, ‘Dancing at Lunasa’ and ‘Breakfast on Pluto’, while TV shows ‘The Tudors’, ‘Penny Dreadful’, ‘Ripper Street’, ‘Mooneboy’ and ‘Raw’ have also used Wicklow as their stage. There are a number of reasons why film and TV producers flock from across the globe to Ireland’s Garden County.

‘Rich tax incentives here have a lot to do with foreign productions filming here,’ she explained. ‘They also need to work out of a studio and we have the main two in the country here. Wicklow also has well-trained, experienced and talented crew, along with a wide range of locations that can double up for other places in Europe. All of these elements come together and that is recognised internationally.’

It’s a case of a lot done, a lot more to do. The Wicklow Film Commission is currently working at addressing any skills gaps by consulting with people in the industry. A recent introductory course to ‘hairdressing on a film set’ marked the beginning of this. It saw twelve trained hairdressers get to grips with working on a film set under the instruction of Vikings hairdresser Dee Corcoran.

Developing Wicklow County Campus at Clermount by expanding the number of film-related courses on offer is the next step in addressing these skills shortages.

‘We are looking at different sectors at the moment,’ said Vibeke. ‘We have been told by people in the industry that we need more trained people in props, model-making, prosthetics and electricians for example.’

‘There’s also a lot of work we could do for schools to incorporate film into the school curriculum.’

Another welcome move is the application for expansion at Ashford Studios.

‘We are very excited about Joe looking to expand and we support him in his work. It’s great to have a local man looking to develop infrastructure which we badly need. They are turning away work because they don’t have the space,’ she said.

‘There are a lot of interesting projects at the moment,’ said Vibeke. ‘We have ‘Into the Badlands’ and ‘I Killed Giants’ filming at the moment.’

(First published in the Bray People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/braypeople/news/taking-centre-stage-35026806.html)

Angling boost for Wexford – Wexford People, September 3 2016

An estimated 240 competitors will hope to reel in some success this November when they flock to Wexford’s coastline for the 2016 World Shore Angling Championships.

Teams of anglers from countries across the globe will compete over a full week on beaches dotted along the Wexford coast. This year’s event, which is organised by the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers, will prove to be particularly significant as it is the first time that an Irish all-female team will take part.

Kilgorman, Ballinoulart, Morriscastle, Ballineskar, Curracloe, White Hole, Ballyhealy, Rostoontown, Rosslare Strand and Burrow have been earmarked as suitable beaches for the competition, along with Wicklow North beach and Woodstown in Waterford. Decisions on where competitors are to cast their lines will be determined according to tides on the day.

While competitors will arrive from faraway shores such as South Africa, Portugal and Spain, the Irish team will include some anglers from much closer to home. Killinick man Martin Howlin will serve as team captain while Courtown’s Joe Byrne is also one of the team members. On the women’s team, Jane Cantwell from Wexford town will fly the flag for her county.

Commenting on the upcoming championships, Martin Howlin said that Wexford were very lucky to get the opportunity to host it.

‘We had the bid against other parts of Ireland so it is great that we were awarded the opportunity to hold it in Wexford,’ said Martin, who will serve as team captain for the second time. ‘The beaches in Wexford are very suitable for hosting major championships as the beaches are very even so nobody has one real advantage against another.’

Martin and Joe also fished in the competition last year and helped the Irish team to take home a gold medal. Martin said that the Irish team should have a good chance of taking a medal this year.

Organised by the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers in association with Abbey Tours and hosted by the IFSA Leinster Branch, the championship will run for a full week from November 12 to 19, with many of the competitors and their families expected to arrive a week early to practice. This will be the second time that the Championships are to be held in Wexford, as the first one of its kind took place in the county.

Business Development Manager with Abbey Events Greg Carew said that their visit will provide a huge boost for the local economy.

‘We estimate that it will result in 3,000 bed nights for Wexford. Considering that it is midweek and mid-November, this will be fantastic for the town,’ he said. ‘We hope to make a good impression and hopefully, attract similar events here in the future.’

The event will kick off on Saturday November 12, with a parade of the nations through Wexford town and an opening ceremony at the National Opera House. This year, three new nations will take part: Poland, Cyprus and Turkey.

The parade will be followed by a dinner in Clayton White’s Hotel, where all of the participants will be based for the week. A training day will be held on Sunday before the lines are cast on Monday and the competition officially begins. Competitors will aim to land as many points as possible each evening during the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. as they fish for species such as dab, flounder, plaice, turbot, whiting, bass and cod, among others. They will be awarded points based on species, size and number of fish caught.

Along with assisting with the organisation of fishing event, Abbey Tours will also facilitate some local tours to sites of interest for visitors who wish to get a glimpse of the county.

In a written address to the competitors, President of the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers Pat Walsh said that the fishing in Wexford ‘is some of the best Europe can offer’.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/angling-boost-for-wexford-35006837.html)

Vision of the future for Johnstown Castle – Wexford People, July 30 2016

The doors of Johnstown Castle were thrust open last week as members of the public were welcomed inside to get a rare glimpse of the interior and learn more about future plans.

An estimated 1,200 people paid a visit to the castle during the two open days staged by Teagasc, who will soon begin a project to restore and open the building to the public. The event gave people the opportunity to learn about the history of the landmark and hear more about plans for its future.

This project will be staged by Teagasc in partnership with the Irish Heritage Trust and the Irish Agricultural Museum with the help of €7.5 million in Government funding. Though the groups have yet to seek planning permission for the ambitious plan, they aspire to have it complete by 2018.

‘A lot of work has taken place over the last number of years. We required a change in the Johnstown Castle Act which left the castle to the state for agricultural use,’ explained Head of PR with Teagasc Eric Donald. ‘We have now managed to secure funding from Failte Ireland and the Government to go ahead with the project.’

In the last number of months, Eric says they have been looking at potential plans and making decisions on how to make the first step. During the recent open days, the unveiled their plans to the public.

The project will see conservation works carried out on the three floors of the castle to make it safe and accessible before it becomes open to the public. An interpretive centre with information on the castle’s history and local stories will be positioned behind the agricultural museum next to a new carpark.

‘We want to have the carpark nestled into the landscape without imposing on the castle and the beautiful grounds,’ explained Eric.

The plan also includes new entrance arrangements. At present, there is one entrance used for the state agencies based on the castle grounds, while another is used by visitors to the castle.

‘We plan to alter the entrance to facilitate those coming to visit the castle. The visitor entrance is through the lovely old arches but unfortunately, buses can’t make it through them. There is also a safety issue when you have a large volume of traffic coming in through the old arches,’ explained Eric. ‘We plan to retain the old entrance with the arches while installing a new entrance for visitors beside it.’

According to Eric, the plans were met with a largely positive reaction from the many people who came to the open days.

‘I think there was a lot of goodwill towards it. A lot of people I met had relatives who worked in the castle in the past so some great stories came out of it,’ he said. The reaction was really positive. It was a really important exercise to open the doors and let people come in and see what’s going on.’

The next stage in the process is applying for planning permission and if granted, work will commence as soon as possible with an estimated completion date of 2018.

Commenting on the initiative Kevin Baird, CEO of the Irish Heritage Trust said:

‘We are delighted with the interest and passion local people have in this special place and we hope as the project develops everyone will find ways to get involved at the property to help us care for Johnstown Castle and share it with everyone.’

In 2015, Teagasc issued a public tender looking for a visionary partner to come on board with them to re-imagine the future of Johnstown Castle. The Irish Heritage Trust was announced as the successful applicant.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/vision-of-the-future-for-johnstown-castle-34911296.html)

Colm Neville on Brexit – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Chairperson of Visit Wexford Colm Neville believes that the recent Brexit decision is a source of huge concern for Wexford and the South East.

Exchange rates, economic uncertainty and the knock on effects of Brexit on the EU are three of the main concerns for Neville, who owns The Crown Bar, Riverside Park Hotel and the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel.

‘Possible recession in the British Economy would obviously affect the foreign travel choices of the British citizen and in turn potentially affect the number of British tourists coming to Ireland,’ he said.

‘There is nothing more disruptive and destabilising to markets and economics in general than uncertainty and the recent vote will have generated uncertainty in abundance. It’s impossible to know where this may lead and what the eventual ramifications it may have on the overall general Eurozone economy which is where our second biggest market comes from.’

According to Mr Neville, nobody can be certain what the outcome of Britain’s exit will be. He believes the most important thing to do is ‘stay calm’.

‘I believe that central Government should use the next couple of months as a cooling down period during which it should set up a dedicated taskforce of tourism industry and economic leaders with the express task of analysing the future and deciding how best to protect our tourism industry against the potential negative impact of Brexit,’ he said.

‘Losing our value for money is clearly one of our biggest threats and so we as an industry need to try and keep our costs of doing business under control and in turn remain price competitive.’

(First published in the Wexford People: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/business/chairperson-of-visit-wexford-colm-neville-34870373.html)

Stories of Irish emigrants come to life once more with the presentation of a replica travel box in New Ross – New Ross Standard, June 25 2016

The perilous journey made by Ireland’s emigrants came to life once more when a handcrafted replica of an old travel box was presented to the JFK Trust.

Handcrafted by prisoners in the Irish Prison Service, the travel box is an exact replica of an old travel box used by those who boarded emigrant ships in the 1800s. It was presented by chairman of the Committee for the Commemoration of the Irish Famine Victims Michael Blanch, along with assistant chief officer of the Irish Prison Service Mark O’Brien.

‘We were delighted to receive the box,’ said CEO of the JFK Trust Sean Connick. ‘It is a beautiful piece of work that was manufactured by members of the prison service.’

Imprinted on the box are snippets of historic importance such as photographs of the emigrant ships and papers owned by some of the many passengers. These documents were lent to the prison service by the JFK Trust and other bodies so that they could copy them and make the piece as authentic as possible.

‘It’s a historical piece, especially with all of the pieces of information printed onto it,’ said Sean. ‘We were delighted to be able to see it in reality.’

The travel box is now on display at the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience.

(First published in the New Ross Standard newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/newrossstandard/news/stories-of-irish-emigrants-come-to-life-once-more-with-the-presentation-of-a-replica-travel-box-in-new-ross-34818427.html)

Ferrybank car park is ‘detrimental’ to business – Wexford People, May 7 2016

The introduction of 24 hour paid parking system at Ferrybank is having a ‘detrimental’ effect on businesses in the area since it was introduced at the beginning of 2016.

In January, Wexford County Council brought in a 24-hour parking system to the public car park, meaning that users are now required to pay €2 an hour after 6.30 p.m., on Sundays and on bank holidays. According to Manager of the Riverbank House Hotel Colm Campbell, the change has had a ‘detrimental effect’ on their business.

‘It is having a negative effect on all aspects of our business,’ he said. ‘It’s hard to measure but I’m using the daily bar food sales as a guide and that’s where I am seeing a reduction. I fully appreciate that a system needs to be there but it’s just not a level playing field.’

According to Colm, the new system is creating other problems in the area.

‘It’s causing congestion and promoting illegal and bad parking,’ he said.

The area is also home to Wexford Bridge Centre, whose members are also being affected by the system.

‘We did have parking available on the same basis as everywhere in the town in the past. Inevitably, people were a bit hot under the collar when the changes were introduced,’ said Chairman of the Bridge Centre committee Maurice Brosnan. ‘We have only about 20 odd spaces so now our members are coming up to an hour beforehand to ensure that they get a parking space.’

Although he said it is creating difficulties, Maurice said that the new system hasn’t affected their participation numbers.

Mr Campbell said that he approached Cllr George Lawlor with his concerns. At the Wexford Borough District meeting last week, Cllr Lawlor raised the issue with his fellow councillors.

‘I was taken aback when I was told we were going to be charging after hours and on Sunday,’ he said. ‘I don’t think we would have voted further parking tariffs if we knew that. We were given the commitment that it wouldn’t be that way.’

Mayor of Wexford Cllr Ger Carthy said that the situation was ‘unfair’ to one business. Cllr Davy Hynes also said it was a problem, saying that the parking situation at Ferrybank should be the same as anywhere else. District Manager Tony Larkin said that it is not ideal but said it is too inefficient for them to put in the manpower to get the barrier raised at certain times.

Cllr Lawlor queried whether a computerised system could not be used to raise the barrier at certain times but this idea was not deemed a solution.

Mr Campbell from The Riverbank House Hotel said that he was aware that no changes were made at the meeting.

‘I hope sense will eventually prevail,’ he said. ‘I’m not looking for special treatment. I want a level playing field so my business is equal to any other.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/ferrybank-car-park-is-detrimental-to-business-34694000.html)