AS we stand on the cusp of weeks 29 and 30 of 2017, it is sobering to realise that we are already nearly two thirds of the way through the year, but uplifting to know that the best is still to come, starting with this weekend.
In Cork, the long-awaited opening of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and its riverside location, is upon us.
It has a 45,000-people match capacity (47,000 when the music heads are in). The city looks forward to providing a Leeside welcome to friends and rivals from Clare, Galway, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford, and Waterford.
It may not be an All-Ireland final, but it’s an all-Ireland event, and each and every visitor is an honoured guest.
As with any opening, until people to get to know the ropes, and the natural tempo of matchdays, there are likely to be some little local difficulties over parking and protocols. The stadium debut coincides with the increasingly popular Lee swim and the Munster Fleadh Cheoil, so this is likely to be the busiest weekend of the year for Cork City.
But if Cork is serious in its ambitions to become a major conference and venue destination, then it must become accustomed to, and proficient in, the management of traffic and volumes of people.
Dire warnings about towaway zones and fines are all well and good, but this is a test local planners must rise to, and pass, with transport systems which are well-integrated and effectively communicated.
No doubt, there will be something to be learned from this weekend, just as there was last Wednesday, when Blarney took on Valley Rovers.
In Dublin, they are well-used to big crowds and big events, and they don’t come with much more resonance and brouhaha than U2 at Croke Park.
While there is plenty of Irish begrudgery about Bono and the gang, the simple fact is that they are one of those groups that can fill a stadium, both with their presence and with a big noise. What’s not to like about that?
The Joshua Tree is an album which spans the growth of modern Ireland, from 1987 to 2017. In 1987, Garret FitzGerald resigned as leader of Fine Gael; Charles Haughey became Taoiseach (the day after The Joshua Tree was released); the National Lottery was launched; Johnny Logan won the Eurovision Song Contest, with ‘Hold Me Now’, and Stephen Roche triumphed in the Tour de France.
Selfie sticks, iPads, GoPros . . . all are items banned from tonight’s concert but which didn’t exist 30 years ago. Whoever it was that said “the past is a different country, they do things differently there” was right.
So, on this big weekend for Irish culture, we wish good luck to the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the millions who will share, or realise, their dreams there in the years to come.
It represents an important milestone in the regeneration of Munster and is managed by people who are committed to ensuring its place in the heart of the city.
And it will make a wonderful venue for U2, the next time they venture south.
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