Tom Ryan: Remarks by Peter McKenna on Páirc Uí Chaoimh 'incorrect and premature'

GAA director general Tom Ryan has described as “incorrect and premature” comments by Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna that the final cost of redeveloping Páirc Uí Chaoimh had escalated to €110m.

Tom Ryan: Remarks by Peter McKenna on Páirc Uí Chaoimh 'incorrect and premature'

GAA director general Tom Ryan has described as “incorrect and premature” comments by Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna that the final cost of redeveloping Páirc Uí Chaoimh had escalated to €110m.

In a statement read by the GAA director general at last month’s Central Council meeting, it was acknowledged the interview given by McKenna to the Irish Examiner last December was “ill-advised and created a negative view of the stadium project”.

Ryan also expressed regret for the reputational damage incurred by members of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh steering committee as a result of McKenna’s comments.

On December 14 last year, McKenna told the Irish Examiner that “we’re probably close to €110m as a final cost” for the Páirc Uí Chaoimh rebuild. He was speaking in the wake of confirmation that Croke Park had taken over the running of the Cork stadium.

McKenna remarked that “in order to stem the debt or put a shape to it, we needed an experienced management team involved. I think if it wasn’t an aligned set-up, you’d be talking about a receivership or something like that.”

Páirc Uí Chaoimh board member Michael O’Flynn, after a thorough examination of the relevant audited accounts, has since put the final cost of the stadium at €95.8m.

Following a meeting between GAA president John Horan, director general Tom Ryan, and Cork Central Council delegate Bob Ryan, the latter serving as Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium manager for a period, it was agreed the following statement would be read at last month’s Central Council gathering.

“The GAA greatly regrets any reputational impacts suffered by members of the steering committee of Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the Páirc Uí Chaoimh project itself arising from an interview with Peter McKenna in the Irish Examiner, published on December 14 of last year.

“The article and its timing were ill-advised given that negotiations with a number of contractors on the project were not finalised. Elements of the article were premature, incorrect, and regrettably, created an extremely negative view of the stadium project and cast a cloud over what was an outstanding achievement by all involved.

“The resulting public and media criticism of those involved in developing the stadium, the members of the steering committee, and Bob Ryan, who chaired that committee and who subsequently acted as the stadium’s operations manager for a period, was an unfortunate and underserved consequence of the incorrect and premature nature of the comments made in the interview.

“On behalf of the Gaelic Athletic Association, I would like to sincerely thank Bob Ryan for his outstanding contribution to the Páirc Uí Chaoimh project.”

Bob Ryan, addressing last night’s Cork county board meeting, said the ramifications of this “unnecessary” interview were “severe”.

“This unnecessary interview, a day before Cork convention, was nothing more, in my opinion, than an ambush, an attempt to discredit members of the steering committee and Cork county board itself,” he said.

The honour and integrity of this great county of Cork was damaged by this interview. Worst of all, the Páirc Uí Chaoimh project was severely damaged by this interview. Another serious aspect of all this was that a senior member of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael would go into the public arena and give an interview of this kind with so many inaccuracies.

Cork’s Central Council delegate stressed the need for protocols to be put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

County board chair Tracey Kennedy made no other comment but to state that she was glad Ryan had achieved “peace of mind” on the matter.

Meanwhile, the pitch specialists awarded the contract of putting down a new surface at Páirc Uí Chaoimh have said an immediate start date is critical to achieving maximum grass growth and ensuring the availability of the pitch for all of Cork’s home league games in 2020.

SIS Pitches Ltd, who begin work next Monday, indicated to the county board that any delay would compromise the possibility of a January opening.

The tender price has come in within the amount allowed in the €95.8m estimate for the overall stadium rebuild.

The complete replacement of the pitch, which has suffered problems since the stadium’s opening, will see a reinforced pitch installed, “bringing it in line with the most up-to-date pitch construction technology and performance available today”, the county board said in a statement.

Tom Ryan.

Tom Ryan.

SIS Pitches are also providing a contract guarantee for the performance of the pitch.

“We cannot ask our teams and supporters to endure another season where our flagship stadium is unavailable to host the games it was built for, and it is absolutely critical now that we have a high-quality, winter-proof pitch available to host all of the inter-county and club fixtures that we wish to play at Páirc Uí Chaoimh each year,” said Kennedy.

“I acknowledge and share the disappointment of many that our senior footballers cannot play their home All-Ireland quarter-final Phase 3 game against Roscommon in Páirc Uí Chaoimh [on August 4], and if there was any way in which the match could have been accommodated without risk to the future success of the new pitch, it would have been done.”

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