Lamps on but no action on Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium committee

BRIGHT LIGHTS: A rig containing lamps that shine on the surface at Páirc Uí Chaoimh to aid grass growth. Picture: Jim Coughlan

By Michael Moynihan

The board of directors of the company intended to manage the affairs of Pairc Ui Chaoimh has yet to meet, almost five months after it was announced.

Before Christmas outgoing Cork County Board chairman Ger Lane said Stáid Cois Laoi, a new company based on the business model of Croke Park’s Pairc an Chrocaigh Teoranta (PCT), would run the stadium as a business entity separate to the on-field activities organised by the Cork County Board.

The new company’s board of directors was to be chaired by Cork GAA chair Tracey Kennedy, with members of the county board executive, prominent local businesspeople, and Croke Park representatives also expected to feature as directors.

However, sources close to the county board confirmed yesterday that the directors have not yet met, nor are any meetings scheduled for the immediate future.

Last night the Cork County Board stated: “The constitution of the new entity involves transfer of assets to the company and is complex. While it had been hoped that the new company and board would be up and running within the past few weeks, the process is progressing satisfactorily and we expect finalisation of all outstanding matters very soon.”

Work is continuing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh to prepare the playing surface and other associated facilities for the championship games scheduled for this summer, with stadium operations manager Bob Ryan confirming that a set of grow lamps are being tested on the playing surface to improve the standard of the grass.

Describing the acquisition of a set of such lamps as “a significant investment” for the stadium, Ryan added: “The lamps have nothing to do with remedial work on the pitch ahead of the championship games planned for the summer, the weather has been very poor over the winter generally but in the last few days there’s a change visible in the pitch.

“You can see growth coming back now, but up to last weekend there has been literally no growth there.”

Ryan said a decision would be made later on whether or not to buy the rigs, which are used in stadia around Europe, after the tests on the pitch have been completed.

“They work through photosynthesis mainly, light and heat, the problem is that the shading of the south stand in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, because of its height, is causing an issue.

“Over the winter months we’ll need to assist in maintaining the growth of grass because of that issue. To that end we got one of the lamp rigs in to test it in order to see how it goes.

“They’re in common use around Europe, what we are doing is we borrowed this set in order to test it now and over the summer, and we’ll decide what to do then for the winter.

“They’d be used in major stadia — Croke Park, the Aviva, and so on. What we’re testing is just one rig, a number of rigs may be needed. Those tests will determine how many we’d need, but there’d also be a serious cost implication - it’s a significant investment to acquire the rigs.”

It’s not clear yet, however, whether another significant GAA event will take place in the new stadium’s conferencing facilities.

Cáirde Chorcaí, the fundraising group for Cork GAA teams which has grown out of CSF Funding Co. Ltd, is planning a major fundraiser on Leeside this year, it has emerged.

Last month the Irish Examiner revealed that CSF, which had originally been founded two years ago specifically to fund the Cork footballers, is now to help fund the Rebel hurlers as well. Conor McCarthy of Cáirde Chorcaí outlined how that remit has widened.

“That’s the first thing, the CSF vehicle had been active in support of the Cork footballers and has now extended to support the Cork hurlers,” said McCarthy.

“What’s happened in that regard is that it’s funded the purchase of video analysis equipment for the hurling team last week, which was undertaken with the Cork County Board’s seal of approval.

“The funding vehicle and the board are planning a launch of the rebranded Cáirde Chorcaí towards the end of next month.

“The link with the board is important, that’s the biggest thing because the fund raising wouldn’t really go anywhere without that. And the board seems to be okay with it. What we’ve done is passed our constitution on to them and they seem happy with it.”

In recent months there has been a lot of focus on GAA counties and organisations raising funds in America. McCarthy confirmed that Cáirde Chorcaí are to cross the Atlantic to raise funds, having already run events in America last year, but will also run a major fundraiser in Cork before the end of 2018.

“We’re looking to hold an event in Cork towards the end of this year and in parallel with that we’ll evolve the overseas model.

“What we mean by that is while we ran a couple of events in America in the last year or so — one in San Francisco, one in Chicago — we’re working on a network, building that in the States.

“There seems to be a bit of cynicism abroad about counties and organisations going across to raise money in the States in a kind of smash-and-grab job, and we think there’s scope for another approach, a quieter, higher-value kind of initiative where you have a network and build outwards.

“But we’ll have a big event towards the end of the year, though that’ll be in Cork. There’ll be more detail coming out over the coming weeks and months, obviously.”

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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