Following an EGM of the Roscommon Gaels club, agreement was reached to hand over the keys of the county’s premier ground to the county board and, in the process, bring to a close a long-running saga between the two parties.
Top brass hailed a momentous breakthrough, waxing lyrically about how the county could now access Croke Park funds to upgrade playing and spectating facilities at the grounds. “We are very conscious of the way the stadium has deteriorated over the last 20 years or so. It is in dire need of an utter revamp,” remarked Fahy at the time.
“Once the Hyde committee is established, we will put in place a development committee whose responsibility will be involved in the drafting of plans in consultation with the national infrastructural committee and, of course, the national finance committee. When that is agreed on, we will go to Roscommon County Council looking for planning permission to carry out a major renovation of the stadium and bring it up to a standard capable of holding Connacht championship finals.”
Hyde Park will be exactly two years in the hands of the county board next week, but no further along is the stadium. If anything, it has deteriorated.
The Hyde was supposed to play host to the Division 1 meeting of Roscommon and Down tomorrow afternoon, arguably the county’s most important fixture in recent years, given victory would almost certainly guarantee their Division 1 status for 2017.
Arriving off the back of unexpected wins in Killarney and Páirc Uí Rinn, a bumper crowd was expected for the visit of Eamonn Burns’ charges. Said excitement and anticipation, though, turned sour on Thursday evening as word filtered through that the game had been moved to neighbouring Longford.
The pitch, which was supposed to be top of the redevelopment agenda flagged two years ago, was deemed unplayable and with the CCCC ruling that Kiltoom does not have the capacity to meet the expected attendance, Pearse Park was given the nod.
The frustration of management, players, and supporters goes beyond having to concede home advantage for an important league fixture. At the root of discontent is the fact Roscommon does not have a county ground to sit alongside Pearse Stadium, MacHale Park, or Markievicz Park.
Looking beyond Sunday, what happens if the weather doesn’t pick up and the pitch is again unplayable come the visit of Mayo at the end of this month? Could it materialise that Fergal O’Donnell and Kevin McStay’s charges are the team on the road that Sunday afternoon. Back to Pearse Park, perhaps?
Current chairman Seamus Sweeney expressed “great regret” when confirming the venue switch on Thursday.
“Roscommon GAA intend to redevelop Hyde Park,” he continued. “In this regard, our clubs agreed that we install a new playing pitch at Dr Hyde Park. We will close Hyde Park in June and hope to reopen the following summer.
“We also intend developing Hyde Park as per our development plan which will see a total reconstruction of the spectator areas and the addition of much required facilities for players, patrons and officials. We will not be able to start that work immediately as there are planning processes to be addressed. We are working very closely with Croke Park and Connacht Council to ensure that we are in a position to do the job as soon as possible.”
But with planning difficulties cited as far back as July 2014, which forced board chiefs to delay redevelopment plans until summer 2015 at the earliest — and still there has been no mortar mixed — who can say when this latest promise will be followed through?