Páraic Duffy anticipates Walsh Park will be ready for championship games

GAA director general Páraic Duffy expects an upgraded Walsh Park to be ready in time to host Waterford’s two Munster championship matches next year.

Duffy confirmed Croke Park have held discussions with the Waterford County Board about rejuvenating the stadium so that it is in a position to stage the Tipperary and Cork round-robin fixtures on June 3 and 17 respectively.

A seven-figure sum of funding is expected to be delivered to Waterford to ensure that playing those high-profile games there is feasible.

“The week after Congress, I said we need to get this cracking. Those discussions are ongoing. We need to get Walsh Park upgraded before the summer. Will it be viable this summer? I think so. The work has to be done. We have to make it happen. I’m not saying a state-of-the-art stadium but is it viable to do the work that is necessary.”

Walsh Park’s capacity is 11,500 but could jump to 17,000 providing a number of improvements are made.

Meanwhile, Duffy has backed the idea of the U21 All-Ireland hurling championship falling into line with the U20 football competition, which commences next year. “The U20 championship, yes I would definitely like to see hurling go to that because I know there are complaints about the gap between 17 and 21. I think 20 is far better.”

The calendar year has been put on the backburner for the moment. “I don’t want to speculate about the calendar year because I’ll be gone by the end of March and that is something for somebody else,” said Duffy. “What I’d like to see is that we run this programme here for three years and see how it works out. Ideally, I’d like to see all our programmes completed within the calendar year.”

As for the likelihood of April being used, as is intended by the Central Competitions Control Committee, for club fixtures, Duffy anticipates several counties will hold off on scheduling their club championships until later in the year.

“I don’t think counties will fix many championship games in April. I think now every county will know that they will have plenty of time in July, August, and September to play off championships so I think they’ll be mostly league fixtures anyway and leagues differ from county to county. In some counties the leagues aren’t all that important but in other counties they’re very important because it’s linked to championship status.

“The big thing is counties will still train but they can’t play challenge matches at the weekends. So I can’t imagine counties will fix games at the weekends. Now, where I suppose inter-county managers have an influence is whether players play in those. That’s always been the case and there’s a huge difference there in how different managers handle that. The influence of managers on whether players play with their clubs or not, that’s always been there and this doesn’t change that.”

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