Sunday, 16 December 2018 07:28

Pairc Ui Chaoimh Turmoil

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Croke Park Waffle On Pairc Uí Chaoimh

Is it a surprise to straight talking Cork G.A.A. fans to discover that Pairc Uí Chaoimh is insolvent so much that

Croke Park big wigs must now come in and steady the ship in muddy waters?

The Cork G.A.A. ship has silently sunk well below its natural floating level and the sailors on the deck, they are the everyday Cork G.A.A. fans in their thousands, did not expect such a calamity at a time when the Cats are already six All Ireland senior hurling titles ahead of Cork in the roll call of All Ireland titles.

The invasion of Croke Park administrators and the sentiments expressed by a prominent Croke Park official, on the future viability of Pairc Uí Chaoimh, not as a sports stadium, but rather as a commercial venue, makes interesting reading for all Cork and all the residents in close proximity to the stadium. This is, once again, an affront from Croke Park, that we are not amateurs. We are professionals, but we avail of amateur status players as our No.1 act and unlike music promoters, we do not pay our performers for the millions of euros they subscribe to our salaries.

The G.A.A. amateur ethos has been disintegrating every day, month and year for many years and it is now in its dying embers. Inter county and even club performers, are now subject to immense demands in physical preparation and the top tier of G.A.A. administrators are now hoisting a dangerous and unacceptable level of commitments on so called amateur performers, all solely driven by financial wizardry. Statements that public demand is the reason is false and dangerous. Club players all over Ireland are the real pawns in the equation.

In Cork, in any restructuring programme, it is quite obvious that any Corkonian expecting to get their pint of Beamish or Murphys in Pairc Uí Chaoimh at standard prices around our city and county pubs, will be hugely offended by the Pairc Uí Chaoimh price tariffs. Simply put, Pairc Uí Chaoimh has priced itself way beyond the ordinary Cork G.A.A. folk. Fancy bars and fancy franchises are of little value to G.A.A. patrons.

A Croke Park spokesperson quoted in the Examiner, waffled about the enormous potential in the Cork commercial zone for weddings, conferences and other events at Pairc Uí Chaoimh and all of this waffle is for a venue without even a bicycle park. There was no commercial mention of our hurling, football, camogie or ladies football teams by the same Croke Park official.

All comments referred to the commercial aspect only and a 10 year plan to take the sunken Cork ship off the Lee mudbanks. In a brand new multi million euro project, glossy statements cannot hide the insolvency of the Pairc Uí Chaoimh debacle. Pairc Uí Chaoimh was supposed to be a G.A.A. project to provide Cork city and county G.A.A. fans with a brand new super stadium, but now even the grass under their feet has to be uprooted.

Location; location. Siting a brand new stadium in the old residence, having regard to the residential nature of the surrounding areas and moreso down in a no go area for parking, was always questionable, but the traditionalists were blinded by their own history. The old Cork Athletic Grounds and the old Pairc Uí Chaoimh, were once mighty good venues, but local residents were always a thorn and rightly so, to the siting of the new Park once again on their doorstep.

Cork City Council cannot be omitted also in any current wrangles. They had the authority to refuse planning permission but relented and allowed construction of a super stadium in a densely populated residential zone. Cork is now stuck with a monster bedded in conflict and any new concepts adopted by the financial rescue teams, will require thorough approval by all local residential areas, all over the districts of Ballintemple, Ballinlough, Blackrock and Mahon.

Croke Park were faced down by their own neighbours a few years ago when they attempted to hoist and host a series of Gareth Brooks concerts at Jones’s Road far beyond the original plans. The location of Pairc Uí Chaoimh is much more sensitive than Croke Park and major Cork events result in total lockdown for residents far and wide. The new Cork administrators live outside of Cork and will have little regard for Cork residents when money talk is on the table.

On a broader and local issue, very few Cork G.A.A. fans expected the new incumbent of the Cork senior administration role to be the person appointed in 2018. This is the official who took on the Cork County Board in recent times with proposals for a radical shake up in the chambers and was sidelined. That person now has a much different role to the one envisaged a short few months ago. The influence of Croke Park is laid bare for all to see and this scriber believes Cork G.A.A. is once again very low in the ratings with the public and that’s without kicking a football or pucking a sliothar into 2019.

Public Relations has always been of minimal standard out of Pairc Uí Chaoimh through a succession of PRO’s and if you are not a member of the inner circle, you don’t even get the courtesy of an acknowledgement to correspondence.

In many experiences, over several decades, of dealing with county boards all over Ireland, it needs to be revealed, that Cork, my own county, is right down at the very bottom of the ladder. Time and time again, courtesy of reply is shambolic from Cork County Board officers and there are no exceptions, even in the current climate of technology.

The new incumbent of the CEO role is now responsible and answerable to Croke Park, but Croke Park itself is thin on the ground when PR is on the menu. The new G.A.A. President has made clubs and volunteers the main order of his tenure, but we need to witness practical experiences of this statement. In a very recent communication I saw no evidence of such a concept.

Conflict with players and amateurism standards of the organisation is never far removed from the agenda and long gone are the days when even the junior clubs adopted the amateur ethos to appointing coaches. Clubs are under mighty pressure in financial terms with insurmountable insurance costs and the many other fees associated with running, even a small one team G.A.A. club.

In Cork the recent demise of the famous Redmonds club made headline news all over Ireland and little did the Redmonds officials realise, that the people they were looking to for guidance, were also sunk in the Lee mud.

Solutions need to be firmly planted for Cork G.A.A. of the 21st century but reading the waffle of Croke Park and the commercial potential of the stadium into the future, constitutes cold comfort to genuine Cork G.A.A. fans.

Liam hasn’t made an official journey to Leeside since 2005 and Sam since 2010, but there was no mention of either Liam or Sam in the media in recent days and that’s without any mention of minor or under 21 grades. Thurles hospitality houses jump for joy when thousands of Cork fans are in town for big occasions simply because the rebels are by far the best spenders on a day out and their supporters are mostly always, almost impeccably behaved.

Cork is not gone off the radar but the fear of the Cork rebel red jersey is most definitely gone off the radar. We are no longer a super power on green grass but without that céad mile fáilte upfront in the Cork chambers, as it prevails in all other counties, I have witnessed over many decades, Cork G.A.A. is now lodged right back in very low esteem with the Cork public.

The current demise and handing over of power to Dublin is very hard to swallow for proud Corkonians. In other words, Cork have been told to move aside and leave in the real experts. It was even more alarming to discover through the Examiner, that Croke Park had already moved in before the sensational news hit the streets of Cork and Ireland.

The current calamity is once again another reason for the public of Ireland to throw huge stones in the direction of Pairc Uí Chaoimh, especially at a time when we believed our senior hurlers were making real progress. However we must also accept that Cork senior footballers are now, barring a miracle, not serious contenders for major honours. Cork hurlers are also no longer compared to the overnight mushrooms.

Are the Cork County Board now expecting sympathy and an easy ride from their own supporters and it goes without comment, that scribers who write unfavourably, will once again go into the black books.

A well known former journalist once famously described county board officers, as frustrated politicians and that turn of phrase cannot be applied across all parties. Under the new Cork regime upcoming, making it user friendly across a wide sphere of people, is their biggest challenge with Cork G.A.A. fans. Banishing an image of elitism amongst their own inner community, will be a monstrous job. That will be vehemently refuted, but negative perception in this instance is deep rooted all around Cork city and county.

In conclusion the latest distraction is hard to swallow for Cork fans and when RTE TV News decided to make Cork G.A.A. affairs once again a headline news article, the prospects of onfield prosperity must also be addressed, but right now, all the sliothars and footballs are submerged in the famous Atlantic Pond right beside the stadium.

Derry JF Doody


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