‘Making a pitch for facilities’

A football team in the Ballymoney borough is appealing to the local council to provide a pitch to enable them to ‘come home’ to Cloughmills.

Ricky Aitcheson, Secretary of Cloughmills FC, says they have been ‘homeless’ for well over a decade and instead have had to play ‘home’ matches in Armoy and lately Rasharkin.

Said Mr Aitcheson: “We are now entering our 14th year as a well run and respected club in the Ballymena Saturday Morning League, yet still we are without facilities in our own village. For the past 3 seasons we have been travelling to Rasharkin for our home games and prior to this we were based at Limepark in Armoy.

“You can understand the trouble this causes, especially with younger players, having to travel to and from matches. We have to train in Ballymena because of the lack of facilities in our own borough, because any pitches that are available are being used by clubs from the Ballymoney area.

“It really does rub salt in the wounds when the village of Clough (in the Ballymena Council area) just 2 miles away have a state of the art set up with a community a quarter of the size of ours!

“I have lost many nights talking with councillors and community representatives in meeting after meeting which always ends the same. Lack of ground and lack of finances!

“I would like to ask the Council - why is it that if Cloughmills has one of, if not the largest, village population in the borough (not to mention rates contributions), are we continually self funding our projects?

“We as a club are going to undertake this project on our own.

“Many people in our area still do not realise there is a vibrant football team in their village because we are hidden away. Many of our young people regularly travel to teams in Ballymena/Ballymoney as they have no youth set up in their own village.

“This segregation begins at a young age and is virtually impossible to mend when they become teenagers. We need to cement friendships from their earliest memories and build relationships through sport, that will last for generations.

“The fact this is being hindered by the lack of recreational facilities is ludicrous in this day and age!

“We have exhausted every political avenue and every way possible through government programmes.

“We now need to highlight the issues we face and ask some serious questions. Cloughmills always feels like the forgotten village of the borough!”