'You couldn't help but feel proud of Cork GAA's new home', players perspective on the new stadium

General view of the action as Valley Rovers and Blarney battled at the newly redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Cathal Noonan

So what is the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh like from a player’s perspective? Kevin Canty was on the Valley Rovers team that defeated Blarney in the Wednesday’s first game at the new stadium.

I met Hughie O’Donovan before the game inside the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Hughie is in his 90s but you’d never think it.

He’s a great character. Never misses a Valleys match. His grandson, Noel, was centre-back against Blarney.

Hughie was telling me that the late Con Murphy, a former Valley Rovers and Cork hurling stalwart who played with Christy Ring in the 1940s, opened the original Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1976.

Con was then President of the GAA but was a brilliant fullback for the Rebels and later a referee and an administrator for Valleys, Carrigdhoun, Cork, Munster and Central Council.

He, like Hughie, never missed a Valleys match and would have been so proud to have seen his beloved club become the first team to play in the new Páirc - and prouder I would say to have seen us win here! I’m sure he was looking down on us for this game.

Surprisingly there was little talk in the build-up in our camp about playing in the new stadium. Fellas probably texted and talked about about it privately but there was no meeting called and management didn’t make an issue of it at training.

We were informed by the County Board that we’d need to take a bus for this match. They wanted to test-run an itinerary similar to what the inter-county teams would be using this weekend, so we got the Presidential treatment.

We’d a Garda escort from Bishopstown which added to the sense of occasion. Arriving at the new Páirc you couldn’t help but feel proud of Cork GAA’s new home.

We took a stroll to get our bearings. We didn’t get a tour of the new Páirc leading up to the match; maybe we should have had one organised earlier in the week. About 40 minutes before the game, we knuckled down to work.

We warmed up in the new Centre of Excellence. This new training ground, a 4G pitch, behind the stadium is excellent.

When I’m playing I’m trying not to take too much notice of surroundings. That’s just me. I’m too busy worrying about what’s happening on the pitch. I think most Corkonians were aware of the cramped conditions of the old dressingrooms in the old stadium.

However, I played a couple of times here with the club in county finals and we togged out behind the stadium in portable buildings. That put a dampener on the sense of occasion that is a county final.

The new dressingrooms are magnificent. Each player has his own allotted space. They’re spacious and have everything a modern changing room should have. I was keeping my area warm for Seamus Callinan! 

I think kids, who went home after being in the stadium Wednesday night, will be pucking around and sleeping with their hurleys. This facility will give the younger generation something to dream of playing in someday.

I was told there were 10,000 in the stadium. It’s the biggest attendance we’ve ever had for a Round Three match!

To be the first team to lose in the new Páirc UÍ Chaoimh was something we did not want to be remembered for. We wanted to focus on our game. It’s about getting stuck in, winning a couple of balls. Once we did that a lot of fellas stepped up and enjoyed it.

My night finished early - and painfully! I thought I was going well but when going for a ball near the new South Stand sideline I felt something twinge in my left leg. Hamstring injury. I’ll get a bit of grief about it. We were told to wear six stud boots but I didn’t listen to that advice.

I was wearing multi-stud and over-extended my left leg and slipped. But it will be fine - and the win helped ease the pain. With the amount of rain that fell before the game, the playing surface was fantastic.

Afterwards, I had a proper look around at the Stands. It gave you a sense of what Cork GAA should be about; a place to be proud of. That is the big difference. When you’re playing you’re only worrying about the game.

For the supporters and for young people it has given them something to be proud of. Credit is due to the County Board for delivering such a fantastic facility.

I assume we’ll be back here again for our next hurling match against Mallow. Hopefully as many clubs as possible get to play here this year. The more games that are in here the better."

Interview by Edward Newman

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