Minister hits out at GAA board in stadium row

A row has erupted between Waterford GAA bosses and former sports minister Martin Cullen, who has claimed the county board is trying to blame him for its “own failings and inadequacies”.

Martin Cullen. Pic: Kiely Photography

In a rare public statement since his retirement from politics, Mr Cullen hit out at the Waterford County Board, claiming up to €25m had been offered to develop a top-class stadium during his time in office but that this had been snubbed.

“We have first-class players with third- or fourth-class backing, that’s where we are at in Waterford,” said Mr Cullen.

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?”

He said he met with other GAA boards and sports bodies but he “could not get Waterford County Board to come together and meet with me”.

County heads first claimed the money was never available to the Waterford board.

“Since I retired from politics eight years ago I haven’t made a comment on anything, but I was very taken aback by the comments that were made,” he told WLR radio’s Déise Today show.

I was left in a situation that led me to believe that I had to put the record straight.

He said that during his time as sports minister, he was “pouring” money into GAA clubs and other sporting organisations and approached Waterford County Board about developing a 25,000-seater stadium.

He said he was greeted by “frustrating nonsense” and excuses such as a proposed facility in Carriganore, to be shared with Waterford Institute of Technology, being dubbed “not far enough into the west to be accepted by people in the west” of the county.

Mr Cullen said he discussed upgrading Walsh Park but was told the GAA would not be able to match government funding.

“The county board wanted 100% funding for Walsh Park, which was not being given to any other place in the country,” he said.

“For somebody to blame and use someone else for their own failings and inadequacies is quite appalling and it reflects more on them than it does on me.”

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