Leeside letdown as Páirc Ui Chaoimh faces delay

Here’s another perspective on the news that broke yesterday about Pairc Ui Chaoimh not being ready to host either of the Munster finals next month.

Leeside letdown as Páirc Ui Chaoimh faces delay

It means a county senior team, with All-Ireland medallists on board, which scored just one point in an entire half of football, is only the second-biggest crisis to emerge this week on Leeside.

The postponement of the opening of the €80 million redevelopment put Saturday evening’s Munster SFC semi-final display by Cork firmly in the ha’penny place.

Yesterday was a shambles from initial rumour to contradicted confirmation.

There have been suggestions drifting up from the Marina for the last few weeks about the chances of a postponement, with those rumours hardening into possibility in recent days.

Yesterday morning the rumours were put to a a Cork County Board spokesperson by the Evening Echo.

They were denied, with the newspaper being told that everything would be ready for the Munster football final.

By lunchtime they were conceded to be true: finals off, to be played elsewhere.

If you feel this is overly sensitive on the part of the media, consider that the matter of naming rights for the stadium is an ongoing, rolling process. Conveying the strong impression the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing within an organisation is a kind of masterstroke.

Unfortunately it’s the kind of masterstroke that doesn’t help the organisation itself; rather, it leaves someone on the other side of the negotiations rubbing their hands at the prospect of a sharp drop in price.

Those who bought premium tickets for the new stadium are likely to be in less charitable humour this morning.

The prospect of All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals being played on Leeside is an attractive one, and an option that was being flagged bravely yesterday on Leeside - but that isn’t nearly as attractive as being present for the first Munster hurling and football finals, with the home side guaranteed a berth in the latter event.

Selling those tickets became a lot more difficult yesterday at around half-past twelve.

The most generous interpretation of proceedings is the delay is down to the ambition of the project, the drive to create a truly 21st-century stadium which will stand as a showcase of connectivity and technology - and the sheer logistical challenge of being on the leading edge of that technology.

A less generous interpretation would point to the slight wobble around November 2015 when the EU decided to investigate the amount of State aid being given to the project; the slight slowing of progress at that point was being identified in some quarters yesterday as the element that had squeezed the timeframe fatally.

All of this barely takes into account the knock-on effect for the Cork teams themselves. Though Kerry remain hot favourites for the Munster football title, the prospect of a baying home crowd, energised by a spanking-new stadium, was expected to give Cork a driving incentive, at least, on the first weekend of July.

In hurling, Cork face the considerable obstacle of Waterford this weekend in the provincial semi-final, but again, the possibility of lining out in the first Munster hurling final in the new stadium was bound to have been in the minds of Kieran Kingston’s players. Not any more.

The bitterest of ironies is the stadium itself is an impressive achievement even in its unfinished state, a venue which promises terrific sight-lines and improved access, space for spectators and comfort for participants.

However, among Cork GAA supporters a gradual drift from entrenched negativity about the project to, if not outright positivity, at least a resigned agnosticism, came to a sudden halt with yesterday’s announcement.

From now on, any confident pronouncements about the project can expect to be doused with scepticism, not to mention a questioning of matters previously left to rest (item: where is the stadium manager, as yet unappointed with a couple of weeks to the stadium’s opening?) In the rush to rationalise the failure to meet the deadline for the handover, more than one observer pointed out at least the mistakes of the original Páirc Uí Chaoimh opening won’t be repeated.

On that occasion the atmosphere was so chaotic spectators spilled out onto the ground surrounding the actual playing area, and sometimes got in the way of players attempting to take sideline kicks.

If memory serves, at least one enthusiastic teenager tried to confront a participant on the field of play.

If that’s the limit of ambition here - to avoid a repeat of the mob scenes more than 40 years ago - then kudos on achieving it.

Everyone thought that sights had been set a lot higher than that, however.

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