THE new ‘One Cork’ model for GAA in the county will return day-to-day control of affairs to the Cork county Board, CEO Kevin O’Donovan says.
GAA chiefs in Cork today unveiled an amalgamated structure embracing the Board, the Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium and the Cáirde Chorcai fundraising arm under one umbrella. The plan has won approval from the GAA at national level, allowing Cork to reclaim a level of autonomy in how it does its business after the financial struggles of the past two years.
Saddled with suffocating debt from the development of a new €96m Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork GAA found itself answering to Croke Park on the day-to-day running of the stadium and its affairs, but that is no longer the case, O’Donovan told media today.
“Croke Park took over day-to-day management (at one point), and that has now reverted back to Cork. They are still our No 1 supporter, providing support and finance but there’s a big difference now with the day-to-day management of the stadium in the control of Cork again.”
Once certain income streams have been realised – including a VAT refund on the stadium project and the sale of lands at Kilbarry on the northside of Cork city - Cork GAA expects to be left with a final debt of just over €20m to handle.
Michael O’Flynn, the businessman and one of the key drivers of the One Cork project, said there was a “joined-up approach” from Cork and Croke Park in terms of debt repayments to their bankers.
“That’s the key here. Croke Park and the Stadium Board are aligned. The bank and Croke Park are very happy that we have come together as one group in Cork.”
O’Flynn “lit the fuse” under talks to get the three bodies in Cork GAA singing off the same hymn sheet, Kevin O’Donovan agreed.
“He told us something we already knew; hat we needed to get all together, to get our ducks in a row. Go into a room and thrash this out. It was something we all knew had to be done but it was only when it landed on Michael’s desk that he raised the red flag.”
O’Flynn revealed: “The real positive here is we have an extraordinary stadium that will stand up to any assessment test globally. It’s no longer a pitch; it’s an extraordinary building in a unique setting and we have the opportunity to put Cork on a footing that would the envy of every county in the GAA. The control and management of the stadium was with Croke Park, and we had a find a way to deal with this. In fairness to headquarters, they want us to have a plan, but who in Cork wants to be managed and controlled by an outside structure? This is new ground for Cork.”
He said changes were in the offing to make the Páirc a venue visitors want to see when they come to Cork.
“The stadium grew as it was being developed and we’ve seen learnings from big matches there in terms of access. We will be creating a new access from the Monahan Road, essentially creating a new front and ‘porch’ to the whole stadium. We are also about to apply for planning for parking there for 100-odd vehicles in this area and these adjustments will help – as will the creation of a museum and café on the ground floor and a café. The City Council and ourselves are working hand in hand which is extremely positive to make these important changes.”