The Waterford County Board have released a statement to refute claims made by former Sports Minister Martin Cullen that he could have delivered a new stadium for them a decade ago had they been willing to leave Walsh Park.
Mr Cullen had claimed that the Déise's board had sought 100% funding to redevelop Walsh Park and had cost the county "two or three All-Irelands" by "dropping the ball" in not building a 25,000-capacity stadium at WIT in Carriganore.
Waterford GAA say an agreement had been reached in 2008 to develop Carriganore but the plans were shelved due to the worldwide financial crisis.
“We have first-class players with third- or fourth-class backing, that’s where we are at in Waterford,” Mr Cullen told WLR radio’s Déise Today show last week.
Criticising the county board, Mr Cullen said: “An incredible opportunity was presented to them, can you imagine any other county in Ireland having the Minister for Sport in their constituency and not even inviting him to a meeting? Does that make sense to anybody?”
Waterford GAA's full statement reads:
"Waterford GAA County Board strongly refutes comments made by former Minister Martin Cullen in an interview broadcast on WLRfm on Tuesday July 3rd.
"Mr. Cullen claimed in the interview that he never met the Waterford County Board. However, the fact is that in January 2006 representatives of the Waterford County Board including the Chairman Pat Flynn met with Martin Cullen regarding the Board’s application for Sports Capital Funding for Walsh Park.
"Matching funding was also sought from the GAA centrally and the Munster Council and the Board never looked for or would expect 100% funding for a project as claimed by Martin Cullen.
"At a meeting in June 2006 Martin Cullen informed the County Board Chairman that there were two major applications for Sports Capital Funding from Waterford in the Department and the Government would only fund one project namely WIT and not Walsh Park.
"The Board, who had been in talks with WIT since 2005, decided to re-examine the joint venture regarding a new stadium in Carriganore. The negotiations included joint meetings between Croke Park, WIT and Waterford GAA.
"In 2007 the Board commissioned Atlantic Sports Management to carry a feasibility study to examine the options for the development of a stadium in Waterford.
"Plans and budgets for a stadium were drawn up by Horgan Lynch in March 2008.
"In June 2008 County Board Officers met with Martin Cullen following his appointment as the Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism regarding the stadium project. The Consultant’s report was presented to the County Board meeting on July 14th 2008 and the recommendation of commencing negotiations with WIT to create a partnership to develop a major GAA stadium in conjunction with a Third Level College was unanimously agreed.
"Negotiations with WIT were still ongoing in December 2008, however, the development landscape had changed dramatically due to the 2008 financial crisis and it was clear at that stage that the proposed project could not be realised.
"The Waterford County Board would like to re-iterate that a figure of €25m for a new stadium was never mentioned, discussed or presented to Waterford GAA, its officers or indeed Croke Park by former Minister Cullen or any Government representative of that era.
"In fact, no figure of any description was offered or presented and the Waterford County Board would call on Martin Cullen to withdraw his comments or produce documentation to substantiate such a claim.
"Mr Cullen’s assertion that there is an East / West divide crippling progress in Waterford is totally unfounded. The County Board is made up of 50 clubs and 17 Executive members from across the East and West of the County and works effectively as a unit with a common purpose and vision for the enhancement of the Association in Waterford. In relation to the development of a stadium at the time in question, the County Board unanimously approved:
- the redevelopment of Walsh Park in 2005.
- the commissioning of a feasibility study into a new stadium in 2007.
- the findings of that study recommending Carriganore as the site for a stadium in 2008.
"The Board also in February this year unanimously approved the current plans for the redevelopment of Walsh Park.
"Our focus is now on developing a first class stadium at Walsh Park which everyone in Waterford can be proud of.
"Waterford GAA acknowledges and appreciates all the support it has received recently."