A WOMAN who won £27 million in the Euromillions Lottery says she “doesn’t care” what people say after she evicted a football club from the pitches they have called home for 28 years.
Millionaire landlord Margaret Loughrey demanded the keys from the club’s management last Thursday night during training at the pitches at Brae Field in Sion Mills.
Sion Swifts stalwart Danny Gallagher said he was finishing up training with his under-15 team when Ms Loughrey arrived at the pitch and ordered them to ‘get off her land’.
Mr Gallagher claims the Strabane woman used “abusive language” in front of young children.
“We were just finishing up with training and the boys were packing away their gear when I heard a woman shouting about getting off her land and about me owing her rent. She was using very abusive language and demanded her keys.
“A lot of the youngsters went home very upset.”
“I had met Margaret a few weeks beforehand,” he added. “We had a very nice conversation and I asked her about leasing the pitch or her gifting us the pitch for the club.
“She said no.
“Then I got a message from her PA saying we owed her rent. In all the years we have been here, I had never heard rent mentioned. I asked her PA how much we owed and she wasn’t able to tell me.”
Mr Gallagher says the club – which includes the Little Dribblers, 20 boys and girls teams, three men’s and ladies teams, football for kids with a physical and/or learning disability and a veteran’s section – are very upset and disappointed about losing their home and are hoping that someone can come to their rescue and provide a temporary or permanent ground on which to train.
This isn’t the first time a Sion sports club has fallen foul of Ms Loughrey. Back in 2014 Sion Mills Cricket Club were locked out of their ground, resulting in the forfeiture of several matches. Some weeks later the Sion Mills Bowling Club too were banned.
“For the past 28 years thousands of kids and adults have graced the Brae turf and enjoyed their football experiences whilst making new friends and lasting relationships,” said Mr Gallagher. “For me there is nothing better than when you see hundreds of kids playing happily on the two pitches. I always believed that the football pitches and changing facilities at the Brae would be developed.
“This is and should be our home of football. Sadly and with deep regret we have been forced to abandon any notions and dreams that we may have had, through no fault of our own. The verbal abuse that was hurtled at myself, players and kids on Thursday evening at the Brae was nothing short of disgraceful.”
Margaret Loughrey said she had her own plans for the pitches and didn’t care what people said.
“People can say what they want,” the Euromillions winner said.
“The paper can print what it wants. I don’t care. I have no comment to make.”
Swifts manager Danny Gallagher says they have been overwhelmed by offers of support from schools and organisations who have offered their facilities.
A concerned supporter of Sion Swifts has subsequently set up an online fund-raising to help raise money for new pitches.
You can donate at ww.gogetfundind.com/swifts-pitch-soccer-pitch-fund/
Posted: 10:28 am September 9, 2016