There was a full house in the County House in Lifford on Monday night as Councillors, management and staff of Donegal County Council gathered to honour Ballyliffin Golf Club for their tremendous work and success in hosting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in July.
Ballyliffin Golf Club was well represented on the night by Lady President Ann Butler, Lady Captain Marlene Kane, President John Geoghegan and Captain Paddy McDermott along with General Manager John Farren.
The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open was hosted for the first time ever in Ballyliffin in July with a record number of attendees of over 95,000 visitors over the five days of the tournament.
Speaking at the reception Cllr. Seamus O’Domhnaill Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council spoke of his pride in Ballyliffin, in Donegal and in the North West Region during his time at the tournament telling Ballyliffin Golf Club that “you were the pride of Donegal and it was a privilege to be associated with you in the hosting of this prestigious event”.
Cllr O’Domhnaill added: “There were many doubters at the outset of this process, Ballyliffin was too rural, there was not enough accommodation, the infrastructure was not good enough, but you had the determination, the raw drive and the hunger to make it happen and you did. The Irish Open was a huge success and you have created a template not only for other locations in Donegal but for every rural community along the western seaboard. You showed that it is possible to not just host a world class event in such a location but that it can be a roaring success and a game changer for the development and prosperity of that area.”
Chief Executive of Donegal County Council Seamus Neely thanked the Ballyliffin Golf Club for being proactive partners during the preparations and the hosting of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open saying “it was a pleasure for myself and my team to work with you on the hosting of this iconic event. It was a truly collaborative effort and was a great exemplar of what can be done in a small rural community with such a unique asset when everyone works together.
“There were significant challenges and I have to give credit to you, Ballyliffin Golf Club, for making the brave decision to invest all your reserves to proceed with the hosting of this event. I am very proud of what you have achieved and what we have achieved by working with you. I am very pleased with the outcomes and the value that the success of the Irish Open has had and will continue to have for the people of Ballyliffin, Inishowen and Donegal as we work collectively in the months and years ahead.”
Speaking on behalf of Ballyliffin Golf Club, General Manager John Farren thanked Donegal County Council for hosting the Civic Reception in their honour and said that this honour should be in recognition of the people of Donegal and not just for Ballyliffin.
He also acknowledged his staff in Ballyliffin Golf Club and spoke of their great pride in the club and the importance of their welcoming attitude and how this all contributed to the Ballyliffin Experience. He also noted that the spirit of co-operation went way beyond the club and that over the course of the tournament over 550 volunteers gave up their time to support the smooth running of the event and he thanked them sincerely for their hard work over those days.
John also referred to the foresight of past members of the club saying “if it was not for the vision of those men who in the 1950’s had the foresight to buy 365 acres for the club we would not have the product we have today”.
He also thanked Seamus Neely and his team in Donegal County Council who he described as the ‘biggest contributors’ to the success of the event saying “the co-operation between Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council got our proposal over the line in that the hosting of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open was not just a gig for Donegal or Derry but for the entire North West Region”.
John believes that the most important work must be done from this point on to secure the legacy of the event. “It is now about how we maximise our return for the people of Donegal. This event showcased Donegal in all its glory, it instilled pride, confidence and enthusiasm in the community and it was an opportunity for our diaspora to come home or to enjoy watching their home county on TV. The whole of Donegal deserves a massive clap on the back for what the county achieved. We now have a seat at the table and we showed the world that we can host a world class event like the Irish Open.”
The work of Failte Ireland, An Garda Siochána, Derry City & Strabane District Council, local businesses, the community and indeed the team at European Tours was acknowledged by many speakers throughout the event.
In a recorded address Simon Ellis from European Tours congratulated Ballyliffin Golf Club on being honoured with a Civic Reception and said that “European Tours are proud of their association with both the Club and Donegal County Council”. He paid a special tribute to John Farren who he said had the drive, the commitment and the belief in his product. He concluded by saying that visitors arrived in Donegal with small views but left with big impressions having experienced Ballyliffin and the hospitality of Donegal.