James (back, left) and Michael Stones (back right) of MJS Building and Development, sponsors of Westmeath development squads, with members of the Westmeath under 16 hurling side.

Great boost for Westmeath GAA underage players

The very generous and substantial sponsorship of the Stones brothers, Michael and James, who run the successful MJ Stones Building and Development in New York, should be acknowledged for what it is.

The Kilbeggan natives are pumping significant money into Westmeath GAA over a three-year period to kit out all development/ academy squad players and fund the cost of running the various underage championships in Westmeath. It’s great to see local people maintaining a link with home having enjoyed great success in another country: they had the ‘get up and go’ attitude to do it in the first place and now they are giving something back to the community they love.

Something significant, too, it must be said.

Michael Stones spoke to the Westmeath Examiner at the official launch of the deal in the Annebrook House Hotel some months ago, but in truth, the impact of what he and James were doing hadn’t really sunk in at that stage. It’s only when you go to games now, in the height of the playing season, and see players wearing the new gear that you can appreciate what they are contributing.

Michael recalled how, as an underage player, he was given a pair of shorts by his club and it made such an effect on him. That had an impact on the decision to give something back to Westmeath when he was in a position to do so. It inspired the decision to have MJ Stones Building and Development emblazoned on the Westmeath gear for the next three years.

“We are hugely involved with the Westmeath GAA Club in New York and have major connections with Kilbeggan, where we played our underage football. We also played hurling with Castletown Geoghegan, so that’s where our interest and passion blossomed. When the opportunity arose to get involved in this project, we jumped at it,” Michael explained.

“There’s no better way to support Westmeath than to pump finance into the underage structure and help it get stronger. That’s vital for the future.”

Michael and James have made special efforts to return home since the deal was announced and they have been familiar faces at the Westmeath underage league finals in recent times. They were both in Clonkill for the under 15 Division 1 decider between Clonkill and Raharney, while they also made an effort to get to Ringtown on the same evening for the Division 2 decider.

Barry Kelly, Westmeath Coiste na nÓg chairman, expressed his gratitude to the Stones brothers when presenting the trophy in Clonkill.

“They have given significant funding to support the Westmeath GAA underage structure and is certainly greatly appreciated by all involved. They have been great: James was home at the Féile final when a big game was taking place in New York and he obviously had to make a special effort to be here. There was a massive reaction to the information evening in the Mullingar Park Hotel where the gear was distributed, and our young players really appreciated it.

“It wouldn’t have happened without the Stones brothers and I want to acknowledge their outstanding generosity.”

A survey has found that gear is one of the main reasons why young players get involved with development squads. They love the satisfaction, not just of wearing the gear but being part of a county development squad: it gives them a badge of identity, obviously, and is an incentive to make the sacrifice and get involved with the county set-up.

That point further reinforces the importance of the new sponsorship deal for Westmeath.

MJ Stones Building and development is relatively new, having started in 2018 in New York, and it has gone from strength to strength.