The sales manager at Páirc Uí Chaoimh has one reservation about the grand reopening, writes Larry Ryan.

Patrick Doyle plays midfield for St Michael’s. At 35, he knows there’s not too many years left. But he always vowed to stay going til they won the county.

Could it be the year? A three-point win over Eire Óg last month put the Blackrock boys into the quarter-finals of the Cork Premier Intermediate Football Championship.

Only thing is, Patrick has done his cruciate, operation coming up when he has a spare minute, which mightn’t be soon.

“I’ll be gutted if they make it to the new stadium and I’m injured and can’t play, but please God they’ll drive on. It’d be great to see them here.” 

There hasn’t been much time recently to dwell on injury woe.

“It’s coming from all angles. It’s all hands on deck at the moment. Whatever you’re doing, you pitch in everywhere. Everyone is rolling their sleeves up.

“Basically, I’ll be looking after everything commercially related to the stadium.

“The sale of premium tickets is the main priority. Plus a big focus will be on the conferencing and events side of things and ensuring that is optimised to its maximum. Because that’s going to be a huge feature for the new stadium.

“This will be a busy venue seven days a week. What happens Monday to Saturday will be equally as important as what happens on Sunday.” 

Patrick has had a welcome helping hand with his first priority, selling the 2,000 10-year premium tickets for the middle tier of the south stand. Marketing money can’t buy, courtesy of the rising tides at all levels of Cork hurling.

“We’re very happy where we’re at. What happens on the pitch usually dictates what happens commercially, in any sport. Whether that be Munster rugby or Leinster rugby or whatever. The commercial side of things will always be linked to performance on the pitch.

“So it’s great that Cork hurling is driving on and that’s given it a big pep as well.

“And Ed Sheeran playing three gigs here next year has obviously focussed the minds as well. It’ll make it a lot easier to sell the place as a top class concert venue going forward.” 

He might be something of a cuckoo, a Kerryman nesting in Cork’s iconic old bowl. But nowadays ‘we’ means only one thing: The Páirc.

“We’ll always get games. We’re owed three Kerry-Cork matches.

“With the revision in the championship structure you’ll have lot more games as well. You’ve the round robin on the hurling side if those proposals go through. Home and away games.

“You’ve the opportunity to get league finals, I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t happen.

“Even in the Super 8, one element is a neutral venue, so you never know, you could have the Dubs playing a team down here which would bring big activity.” 

Ironically, county board secretary Frank Murphy, whose ambition has made this week’s reopening a reality, has come out strongly against the proposed hurling championship restructure, insisting it will decimate the club calendar.

As a club player himself, Patrick can see hassle as well as clicking turnstiles.

“If it means more games for the stadium, well and good, but obviously it creates more pressure in Cork from a club perspective. There’s no doubt about that. The county board have their view on that, but if we get more games it’ll be a positive for the stadium.

“But even if those proposals don’t go through, there will be other games.” 

Beyond the lure of championship, Patrick wants to embed the new Páirc in the city’s social scene.

“Our challenge is to enlighten people that what we have now is a totally different animal. The location is the same and the bowl has been maintained. But it bears no resemblance in terms of its facilities and design. It’ll be night and day.

“Anyone we’ve brought in for tours has said they didn’t realise it was going to be this good.

“We’d hope to boost attendances for league games, try and enhance the experience, with the food and the beverage facilities.

“Romantic and all as Páirc Uí Rinn is on a dreary Saturday night, if people come down here they can have a drink and a bite to eat. It’s a comfortable experience. It’s a night out. And you’re near town. Instead of going to the dog track where you’ve to get a taxi in, you’re only a five-, ten-minute walk here from the city centre.” 

On the events side, there’s a template to follow; the bustling hive of corporate activity GAA HQ has become.

“We’re working closely with Croke Park and their team up there.

“With minimal promotion of the conference facilities we’ve had massive interest already. We’ve a number of bookings in the diary and will be properly launching it as soon as we have the doors open and the first games past us.

“The Digital Marketing awards will be held here later this year. And more events will be announced in due course.

“We will be pitching it as a premium venue. In the events space, everyone is looking for something a little bit different. Certainly, we fit that bill.

“We don’t have bedrooms so we don’t see ourselves as being in competition with other hotels or anything like that. We work closely with them and hopefully we can win some international conferences that would have gone to Killarney or to Dublin.

“That will be good for the wider Cork economy.” 

For now, after a long rebuild, it’ll be good to get feet under the table and watch this weekend’s games open a fresh chapter in the Pairc’s history.

“It’s just great now to have the place open. The Tony Kellys and Seamus Callanans are really looking forward to coming to Cork and playing in what we would see as the top pitch outside of Croke Park.”

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