Duffy: Spending £15m on Casement Park a ‘no-brainer’

Páraic Duffy has admitted the GAA’s £15m (€19m) investment in the Casement Park project is a huge undertaking for the Association in the current economic climate.

It’s the biggest financial outlay the GAA has committed to since the redevelopment of Croke Park and Thurles. The total redevelopment of a new 40,000 capacity all-seated Casement Park will cost £76m (€96m), with the government in Northern Ireland providing the bulk of the finance. But it is still a massive commitment for the GAA in recessionary times.

“We invested something similar in Thurles as well, but that was in better times,” said Ard Stuirthóir Duffy.

“For us at the moment, that kind of investment is huge.

“We will have to borrow some of the money, but to be fair, no-one said no, we shouldn’t do this. From management to Central Council, there was not one dissenting voice.

“I was pleasantly delighted with the way people responded to it. People felt this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“Everybody wants the GAA in Ulster to have the iconic stadium it deserves.

“The stadium needs to be done, so it was a no-brainer. We could have used the money for other things, but this is one we have to do.”

The Ulster Council yesterday unveiled world renowned stadium designers, Mott MacDonald Ltd, as the company tasked with delivering the project by September 2015.

They were involved in the redesign of Wembley and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London, as well as London’s Olympic Stadium.

Their Belfast-based designer, Bill Dowey, said at yesterday’s launch: “The timescale is extremely tight, one of the tightest we have ever faced, but what you are going to get is a unique stadium.

“We will transform Casement Park into a stadium where dreams are made, one which is fully inclusive — not just for the GAA but the surrounding community.”

Antrim chairman Jim Murray confirmed his county’s hurlers will play at Loughgiel during the rebuild, but the footballers have not located a temporary home yet.

They are hoping they do not have to move until after the 2013 championship season, but will take advice from the designers.

Corrigan Park in West Belfast, Antrim’s designated second county ground, along with Toome, Creggan and Randalstown, could potentially stage county games — but Ravenhill does not appear to be on the agenda.

“Ravenhill is not an option, nor is moving to grounds outside of the county,” claimed Murray. “I want to keep our championship matches within Antrim. I would prefer to give the opportunity to Antrim clubs to see which of them want to host games, and what facilities they have or might need to be able to accommodate crowds of around 3,000.”

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