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Mines often become integral parts of their local community due to the long-term nature of their operations which can span many decades. As well as providing large numbers of well paid, life-time careers that help bind communities together, mines also contribute directly to other spheres of life, from education to tourism and even sport.
This is particularly evident in Meath, which has been home for the last 40 years to Tara Mines, Europe’s largest zinc mine. Given the county’s almost exclusive fixation with all things GAA, it should come as no surprise that the mine’s employees, both past and present, could form a GAA ‘Hall of Fame’ steeped in the sport’s folklore and representing every level from Minor through to Provincial and National. The names would include Ken Rennicks, one of the greatest footballers never to win an All-Ireland; Michael McQuillan, winner of two All-Ireland Senior football championship medals and an All-Star winner; Mattie McCabe and Michael O’Brien, All-Ireland winners; Jimmy McGuinness, Under-21 All- Ireland medal and an All-Ireland Senior champion; Ronan Giles, 1975 League Championship winner; and Martin Shields, Meath Senior County Champion. The mine has also provided family employment from generation to generation, most notably Brendan Cahill, captain of the 1957 All-Ireland minor champions, whose son (Meath Minors) and grandson also worked at Tara. The roll of honour crosses GAA codes too, including John Norris, Galway (and latterly Meath) Senior hurler and Pat Potterton, Meath Senior hurler and All-Ireland B knockout Championship winner.
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Supporting Local Clubs
A retired employee of Tara Mines explained: “I’ve worked in a variety of mines over the years, in Tynagh, Lisheen, Galmoy and Tara. When I was playing, I never had bother getting time off for training, it was an honour for the mines to have someone working for them who played for the clubs or county. Better than that, our grandchildren are growing up around us, and are all playing actively with the clubs at underage or juvenile levels. The mine has kept us rooted and the clubs have flourished as a result.” Another employee and local GAA stalwart added: “Working in Tara Mines we never experienced the downturn of unemployment, whether before, during or after the Celtic Tiger. For a lot of us, it simply took away the spectre of emigration or having to leave the area for work.”
Yet another said: “Because of the employment and the money I didn’t need to move. The mine has kept me here and will keep me here for as long as I choose – and I’ll keep playing football. It’s as simple as that.” As a result, local GAA clubs in the area, be they football, hurling or camogie, have all thrived and benefitted from Tara Mines which has acted like a ‘glue’ helping keep the community together. Seneschalstown, Simonstown, Navan O’Mahony’s and Bective are proud GAA clubs which continue to draw talent from the mine’s workers and their families. One employee said: “Tara Mines actually drew people into the area, rather than watching them leave. Joining the local GAA clubs gave us a chance to get to know people, it broke down barriers. The number of times someone said to me ‘I saw you hurling on Sunday’, and we’d end up having a jar and gas together, sure it was the making of us. It helped us feel part of the community and start putting down roots.” Picking up the thread, another miner added: “For some people they get up in the morning and go to work because they have to. It’s a job and nothing else. But not with me. Here, the mine is a vocation, and it’s a vocation that allows me to give my lifeblood to my local club, and that’s something that I hope I can pass on to my own children.”
“Lisheen Mine, you will never be forgotten for what you have done here and provided for the future of Tipperary hurling and football.” Tipperary County Board Chairman
In addition to GAA, Tara Mines has also actively supported horse racing, angling, golf, boxing and athletics clubs. Rugby is also represented by former employee John Grennan, once a Munster schoolboy champion. Other Irish mines such as Lisheen have made notable sporting contributions too, including a €100,000 hurling wall at Thurles.
Supporting Tyrone’s Sports Clubs
Dalradian’s vision is that our proposals for an underground gold and silver mine will provide a similar boost for Tyrone’s sporting community. By directly providing 350 local jobs we will give local families the employment opportunities they need to stay at home and stay involved with their local clubs. Through our Tyrone Fund we’ve already sponsored several community clubs including rugby, soccer and GAA, helping them to buy kits or run summer schools. The support provided to date, however, is just ‘pre-season training’ – ‘Game- on’ will start properly should our planning application be approved.
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