‘Home’ venue plan revisited

WATERFORD GAA secretary Timmy O’Keeffe has made a resolute defence of his highly controversial suggestion that the Déise should opt for Kilkenny’s Nowlan Park as the county’s Munster senior hurling championship venue in any future “home and away’’ arrangement they might enter into.

While O’Keeffe’s comments, contained in his report to last night’s annual convention, caused a major stir, the secretary told delegates last night that they should very seriously consider all aspects of it before deciding to “throw out the baby with the bath water’’.

O’Keeffe said that by Waterford playing their “home’’ championship games in Nowlan Park, the Munster Council wouldn’t lose one penny. At present the council retains 85% of these championship gates and irrespective of where the games are played, they (council) would continue to receive that share.

He said that if they were to play Tipperary in Cork in the championship the game, based on an attendance of 30,000, would be worth about €125,000 to the Cork County Board. If on the other hand Nowlan Park was hosting the same game under a “home and away’’ arrangement, that money would come to the Waterford board.

“Why should we be paying Cork €125,000 when we could have that revenue for ourselves?” the secretary went on. “Let’s think long and hard about this before deciding to throw out the baby with the bathwater.’’

He said that this year they play Limerick in the championship in Semple Stadium and that will be worth about €96,000 to Thurles. “Money,” he added, “we could be having if the game was played in Kilkenny under the home and way arrangement’’.

“When you run out of money, your teams will go down like a stone and in this county of ours we need money,” said O’Keeffe.

Ardmore delegate Noel Conway said the secretary’s suggestion is one that should at least be fully explored, while the Stradbally chairman Pat Fennell said it was about time they got a proper stadium of their own developed.

However former county chairman James Tobin (Shamrocks) launched a blistering attack against the idea of opting for Nowlan Park as a “home’’ Munster championship venue.

“For more than 100 years we have played our Munster hurling championship games without any home and away arrangement, and until such time as we can facilitate playing at our own pitch, we should continue as we have been until now,” said Tobin.

“A home venue for Waterford has to be in Waterford, and until such time as we have our own venue suitable of hosting championship games, then it must remain a neutral venue for us.”

Another former county chairman, Paddy Joe Ryan, also exhorted everyone to think long and hard before taking the secretary’s idea onboard, while former Munster Council representative Tommy Hennessy reminded delegates that in recent years, Waterford had received grants totalling €2.2m from both Munster and Central Councils.

The final words on the controversy came from the board’s vice-chairman, John O’Leary, who said that while he wouldn’t support playing “home’’ championship games outside of Waterford, the secretary had evoked very worthwhile discussion.

“We need, and deserve, a far higher financial return from gates from the council than we are presently getting,” vice chairman O’Leary added.

In the only contest of the night, Emer Barry of Lismore defeated Tomas Kiely (Abbeyside/Ballinacourty) by 89 votes to 58 to become the board’s new public relations officer.

Delegates chose the veteran Seamas O’Brien to succeed the late Pat Fanning as honorary life president.

Meanwhile Kilkenny County Board recorded a very healthy profit on their workings for the past year.

The board returned a surplus of over €181,600 workings for the year, the annual convention revealed last night.

The county board did particularly well with local club games which returned receipts in excess of €214,000.

County board secretary, Ned Quinn, revealed a new centre of excellence could be on the way. Delegates were told the board has in excess of €250,000 set aside for this project.

OFFICERS; Honarary Life President, Seamas O’Brien (Abbeyside/Ballinacourty); Chairman — Tom Cunningham (Stradbally); Vice chairman — John O’Leary (Ballyduff Lower); Secretary — Timmy O’Keeffe (Clashmore/Kinsalebeg); Treasurer — Joe Cleary (Abbeyside/Ballinacourty); Youth Officer — Pat Moore (Abbeyside/Ballinacourty); Development Officer — Brendan Tobin (St Mary’s/Sliabh gCua); Coaching And Games Development Officer — Pat Grant (Fourmilewater); Irish And Cultural Officer — Tomas Ó Cadhla (Abbeyside/Ballinacourty); PRO — Emer Barry (Lismore); Munster Council (2); Anthony Walsh (Colligan/Emmetts), Pat Flynn (Passage East); Central Council — P. J. Ryan (Fourmilewater).

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