Waterford County Board is likely to delay the redevelopment of Walsh Park in a bid to entice Munster Council to award the venue both of the county’s 2019 Munster SHC home games.
No decision will be made on where Waterford play their home games next year until after An Bord Pleanála rule on the redevelopment of Walsh Park. A final verdict from the planning body, regarding two submissions lodged in relation to elements of the proposed facelift, is expected in the coming weeks.
Should the regeneration project receive the green light, county board officials have to then make a call on whether to press ahead with construction or delay the start date until mid-June so to keep Walsh Park in the running to be the venue which plays host to either of Waterford’s 2019 Munster championship home fixtures.
Munster Council chairman Jerry O’Sullivan has said Walsh Park was never out of the equation with regard to being used next summer.
He added that the chief reason it was deemed unsuitable this year was not its capacity of approximately 8,000, but rather the collapsed Western Boundary wall.
Waterford manager Padraic Fanning, in conversation with county board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan over the weekend, was adamant their games against Clare and Limerick on May 12 and June 2 would take place in Waterford.
“I met Padraic at the county U21 final and he is determined the games be played in Waterford,” Ryan remarked.
The limited capacity of Walsh Park, in its current guise, wouldn’t prove particularly problematic for the potential visit of Clare on the opening weekend of the provincial championship given this pairing has drawn relatively modest crowds in recent years.
The crowd of 13,736 which watched their Ennis meeting in late May was the second smallest attendance of the 11 Munster championship fixtures.
Awarding Walsh Park the Limerick-Waterford round three fixture, however, would likely see demand far exceed supply and may compel Munster Council top-brass to play the game elsewhere.
No discussion on such has yet taken place, according to Jerry O’Sullivan.
“Walsh Park is still a possibility, but at this moment in time, nothing has been ruled in or out,” said the Munster Council chairman.
“We are anxious Waterford avail of the home games, the same as everybody else. They just find themselves in a very unfortunate position. Once that planning decision is made, we can all sit down and decide where we want to go from here.
“[Munster CEO] Kieran Leddy is due to go to Waterford on Thursday. Meetings are ongoing. If planning permission is refused, we are back to where we were last year and the only difference is the [western boundary] wall situation has been rectified. You would still have a problem with capacity.
“We’d be anxious to get these matters, relating to venues and times, put to bed as quick as is possible. That lets everybody know where they are going.”
At last Thursday’s Munster Council meeting, Waterford delegate Brendan Tobin’s motion to allow venues outside the province to be used in the case where a county is unable to host home games was defeated five votes to four, with one abstention. Even though Leinster Council played their provincial hurling final replay, between Galway and Kilkenny, at Thurles, their Munster counterparts are not in favour of Nowlan Park being availed of by Waterford.
“My own opinion is that we have sufficient and suitable venues in the province and I don’t see any necessity to go outside the province to play any of our games,” O’Sullivan insisted.