Cork set to host final despite reservations

Páirc Uí Chaoimh is expected to host the Munster senior hurling final on July 13, provincial sources have told the Irish Examiner.

Cork are entitled to a home game as part of their home-away agreement with Limerick. Last year’s decider between the counties was hosted at the Gaelic Grounds but now Limerick have expressed reservations about the suitability of the venue to the Munster Council.

The capacity for the much-anticipated rematch will only be decided after health and safety officer Michael Slattery visits Páirc Uí Chaoimh today. There he will briefed by Cork secretary Frank Murphy and Munster Council chief executive Simon Moroney. It’s expected his report will be issued to both parties by the end of the week and, as Moroney told the Irish Examiner yesterday, a final decision on the venue will be made early next week, likely Monday night. In 2011, Slattery was commissioned by the GAA to complete an audit of all county stadia after which the vast majority had their capacities cut, pending extensive and remedial work. When the report was released in early 2012, it had been reported Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s figure had been cut to approximately 32,000 from 43,000.

That figure was flatly rejected by Cork officials at the time and then chairman of the GAA’s national infrastructure and safety committee, Seamus McCloy said only minor improvements were required, under the covered stand. He stated at the time: “It might involve closing a couple of shops in the tunnel to improve access and more stewards. A few small things can be done to where they want to be.”

Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s revised volume has jumped following a series of works done around the stadium, although the council are dubious about claims in Cork that the capacity is above 40,000.

It’s the opinion of a number of Munster Council officers that Páirc Uí Chaoimh in its present form is not an appropriate venue for an attractive final which attracted 42,370 in the Gaelic Grounds last year.

A figure in the mid to high 30,000s has been mooted, although with over two weeks until a possible Munster football final with Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, there remains the possibility Cork could meet a number of conditions to add to the capacity in the meantime should Slattery return with a number under 40,000. The Munster Council are fully aware of the historical significance of what would be the last ever inter-county game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh before major redevelopment begins shortly.

Cork chairman Bob Ryan as well as players Patrick Horgan, Aidan Walsh and Damien Cahalane have all referred to the attraction of giving the stadium a send-off.

There is a sense of disappointment in provincial circles that Limerick have cold feet about travelling down the N20 for the clash, when they were delighted to welcome Cork to the Ennis Road last year. While there is an anticipated drop of gate receipts and the prospect of several thousand people not being able to purchase tickets, senior Munster figures are prepared to accede to Cork’s request to stage the fixture as part of the home-away deal.

Since the Slattery report, the highest attendances recorded at Páirc Uí Chaoimh have been 32,568 for the 2012 Cork-Tipperary Munster senior hurling semi-final and 23,184 for the same year’s provincial football semi-final between Cork and Kerry.

Meanwhile, Cork chairman Ryan believes the stadium will get the green light to host a Cork-Kerry football final on July 6 should the counties win their respective semi-finals against Tipperary and Clare this weekend.

“If Cork and Kerry were to meet in the Munster final I would be optimistic and hopeful that the game would be played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh,” he said.

“The two counties have a long-standing home and away agreement. Given the Munster final was in Killarney last year, it is Cork’s turn to host the next championship meeting between the two.”

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