It’s game on for the newly refurbished Páirc Uí Chaoimh following confirmation that the Cork stadium will reopen for senior intercounty hurling, writes Joe Leogue.
The GAA has announced the 45,000-capacity stadium will be ready and available for July 22, with the All-Ireland hurling quarter final clash between Clare and Tipperary pencilled in as the curtain-raiser at the new-look ground.
Yesterday the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee gave Páirc Uí Chaoimh the green light — a decision that could be worth up to €25m for the city.
It will be a bumper weekend for the home of Cork GAA, with the second quarter-final between Waterford and Wexford’s taking place the next day.
The clash between reigning champions Tipperary and Clare will throw in at 3pm, while Wexford’s clash with Waterford will start at 4pm.
It had been hoped that the stadium, which has undergone a €70m redevelopment, would be ready to host the Munster finals in football and hurling.
However, delays meant these fixtures to take place in Killarney and Thurles.
Rae Kennedy, chairman of the Vintners Federation of Ireland’s Cork branch, said local bars and restaurants “missed terribly” the spinoff trade generated by games at the stadium.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” he said.
“It obviously gives the whole city a lift, obviously to us matches at Páirc Uí Chaoimh means a spin off, but everyone gets a rub off it. It means more hours for staff who have more money in their pocket to spend elsewhere. It’s a win-win.
“There’s always a good bit of trade before and after a match. Gone are the days of people spending the weekend down for a match, but you still get people getting grub, teas and coffees and some will have a couple of pints.”
Both ties are expected to draw sellout crowds. The box-office draw of Clare and Tipperary provides a match-up between the only counties other than Kilkenny to lift the Liam McCarthy Cup in the past decade.
The second clash hosts the intriguing encounter between Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford side and his previous charges Waterford.
In July 2014, the venue hosted its last intercounty football match when Kerry beat Cork in the Munster football final, which was followed by a victory for the Rebels over Limerick in the Munster hurling final.
In a submission to the Government the following December, the County Board said each major game held at the stadium would generate about €12.5m in benefits to Cork businesses.
Aside from a sporting venue, Páirc Uí Chaoimh has been redeveloped to provide the city with a conference centre and concert venue, and UK singer- songwriter Ed Sheeran will open his European tour with two soldout shows in the stadium next May.
The first game at the redeveloped stadium will take place next Sunday, when round three Cork Senior Hurling Championship clash between Glen Rovers and CIT takes place.
Work has also begun on the adjoining former Munster Showgrounds site ahead of phase one of Cork City Council’s €15m-€20m Marina Park development.
Detailed designs for phase one should be finished by the end of July and it should go to tender before the end of the year, with construction due to start next year, and opening scheduled by January 2019.
It is hoped to retain a central hall area of the former showgrounds for use as a pavilion, to include a covered playground, events space, and food or drinks outlet. The structure is being assessed before a final decision is made on how much of it can be retained.
This area of the park will feature a central plaza for cultural events, and a western plaza for smaller busking-style or street performance events.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner