GAA President John Horan and Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy issued a brief joint statement last night regarding Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s redevelopment and expressed optimism about the future of the stadium.
Last weekend, the Irish Examiner exclusively revealed the project was subject to huge cost overruns and that the pitch would need replacement, as well as pointing out chaotic governance and a need for Croke Park to take the entire enterprise in-hand for up to 15 years.
The board of directors of Páirc Uí Chaoimh met on Monday and yesterday evening a statement was issued on their behalf.
“A scheduled meeting of the Board of Directors of Páirc Uí Chaoimh took place on Monday evening chaired by GAA President John Horan, who was nominated to chair the board at its first meeting in November.
“Michael O’Flynn and Tom Gray, both board directors, have been asked by the board to examine figures and clarify the costs relating to the stadium redevelopment.
“The meeting also confirmed that remedial work will take place on the playing surface to ensure that it will be capable of hosting games fixed for Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2019.
“This work will be completed ahead of the commencement of the Allianz Leagues and it is not expected that a replacement of the pitch will be needed in the short-term.”
GAA President John Horan said: “I am delighted that the GAA has such a positive asset in Cork and I am optimistic about the future of what is a state of the art facility.”
Tracey Kennedy added: “It is fantastic for us to be able to call on the experience and expertise of Croke Park to work with us in the operation of our stadium, and I know this will be a huge positive for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.”
As always, the devil is in the detail.
Sources close to the board told the Irish Examiner that the meeting on Monday evening was a constructive one — perhaps more than would have been expected given the distance between the final building cost cited by Croke Park’s Peter McKenna and that circulated by Cork County Board chair Tracey Kennedy.
It’s not surprising that that should be the focus of the statement, given that so much depends on clarity with the final building cost (though the statement was careful not to contradict either McKenna or Kennedy’s figures).
Any serious business plan — in other words, one that would be acceptable to the banks — needs to begin with certainty on that final cost so the main takeaway for observers will be directors Michael O’Flynn and Tom Gray focusing on that area.
The fact that Cork native O’Flynn is involved will be viewed with approval on Leeside, where last week’s revelations in the Irish Examiner about the extent of Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s travails are still reverberating. (Dubliner Gray, it should be noted, also has a very strong business background.)
However, Cork chair Kennedy’s reference to “working with” Croke Park may not entirely assuage doubts on Leeside that Cork officials are in charge of their own stadium.
Moreover, there is an implicit acknowledgement that the playing surface will need to be replaced in the medium-term. This is a more significant issue than might be first thought, given it directly influences Cork’s ability to host high-profile games which may draw big crowds and generate revenue.
There has been some discussion of the implications of Croke Park taking a hand in the Páirc Uí Chaoimh situation for other GAA capital projects such as the redevelopment of Walsh Park, but in the shorter term the allocation of lucrative games such as the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals will be vital to the Páirc’s financial health.
The implications for venues such as Semple Stadium in Thurles, however, in missing out on such paydays is yet another headache spinning out of this situation.