Years playing hurling, experience climbing poles with the ESB and his father’s inherited 14-acre farm; Padraig Giblin’s ingredients for his million-euro business were in the pot, but it would take a lightbulb moment for him to put it all together.
“It all started down at the local GAA club. Behind one of the goals was a steep slope down into a farmer’s field,” he says. “We’d be losing 10-15 sliotars per training session and for a small club that was depending on cake sales and various other fundraisers to keep afloat, that just wasn’t feasible.
“We discussed it at an AGM and decided to go and source a net to put up behind the goal,” he continues. “We got a 100ft x 45ft golf net. It worked to a tee, but when the storms came during the winter, the net was too fine and it was catching too much wind. It survived the first winter, but by the second winter it was torn to bits.”
Padraig worked in his local Scariff area for eight years fixing breakdowns and working on rural electrification with the ESB.
“In hindsight, working for the ESB is why it all started. If I hadn’t been able to climb the poles, I would never have offered to fix the nets,” says Padraig.
“Before the county final in 1989, I spent hours the evening before the final trying to fix up the nets,” he continues.
He says afterwards he got his lightbulb moment while visiting his father Thomas in hospital who was in for a short period of time.
“It was like a lightbulb moment. Mammy pulled back the curtains and I thought to myself, why can’t I do that with the nets. A game or training is only an hour long; it’d be handy if we could just pull the nets across when they were needed,” he explains.
So Padraig went about designing a pulley system for the net. He ordered a new net for the grounds with a 50mm gap, so it would catch less wind, and put it on a pulley system that enabled the net to be pulled in when it was not needed.
“Eddie Maloney, our local groundsman, proved to be my greatest marketing tool. For the first game with the new nets, I told Eddie to pull back the nets at the end of the game, before everyone was gone, to show the 500 or 600 people at the game what we had done,” Padraig explains.
“Anyway, there was about 10 minutes left in the game and Eddie pulled back the nets, which kind of defeated the purpose of them. But it worked, and before long a few of the neighbouring clubs came knocking,” he continues.
The business started from there. Padraig did a few of the local clubs on a voluntary basis before the county board asked him to do Cusack Park.
He based the company on his father’s 14-acre farm, using old sheds for the nets, vans and equipment. He added a store and washroom for his workers.
“One of my proudest moments was getting the contract for the nets in Croke Park. When I was younger, we’d always get the train up with daddy to the matches, so it was very upsetting when he passed away a month later and that he didn’t get to see that job out,” says Padraig.
In 2002, Padraig bought more land on the banks of Lough Derg. He has since set up a fishing business and team-building centre on the land, Derg Isle. He renovated the old farmhouses on the land to accommodate teams and fishermen. He now employs 12 full-time staff and between 25 and 30 subcontractors and is currently working on the Páirc Uí Chaoimh development, Cork’s new state-of-the-art county grounds.
“We currently have teams based in North Carolina and Brazil. They work on protective nets covering tobacco store houses for people like John Major,” he explains.
Padraig thinks there should be some sort of farm enterprise board set up in Ireland.
“They should analyse your farm from the front gate in and try to get the most out of that farm. Too many farmers are stuck in their ways and not utilising what they have. If we diversified our farms, more than just one son or daughter could work on the farm. We should be exporting ideas and products rather than children.”
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