THE newly redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh can hold its own not just among stadia in Ireland but in Europe and worldwide.
In addition to the floodlit main pitch, stands and terraces, the stadium boasts new dressing rooms, conference facilities, advanced press positions and a provision for score detection on major match days.
The four new changing rooms, including physio and warm up rooms, are the most modern in Europe, boasting state of the art facilities, including underfloor heating.
GAA Director of Communications Alan Milton said the association now regard the Leeside stadium as one of the jewels in the association’s crown.
“We are absolutely thrilled, outside Croke Park there isn’t a stadium that comes close to it and in many instances it rivals and surpasses Croke Park,” he said.
“The infrastructure here, some of the IT is very impressive. This is purpose built and we are very happy with it."
“The proof will be on Saturday and Sunday. We are expecting big crowds and I think the supporters who come here will be hugely enamoured by what greets them. It is very different to what they are used to.”
In addition to match needs, the stadium was also redeveloped with the local area in mind. Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be the first stadium in Ireland to be located within a municipal park.
To enhance the feeling of inclusion, the first-level podium is to be left open on non-match days.
Members of the public will be free to stroll the length of the stadium, with views of the Marina Park and the all-weather second pitch.
Seating will be available and a coffee shop is planned to offer the public a snack while they are there.
Mr Milton also praised the design, with the two terraces retained in addition to the North Stand and soaring South Stand.
“I am personally delighted that they have kept the terraces because it is a unique part of the stadium for atmosphere.
“Glasgow Celtic have put terraces back in and other clubs are looking at it England, so we are very happy to have safe terraces here, as we have in Croke Park.”
With All-Ireland semi-final positions up for grabs at the weekend, score detection will be in use.
“It is not precisely the HawkEye but we will have a score review official, very similar to the one in Thurles,” Mr Milton said.
“We made the decision that we couldn’t have two games so big and not have a similar system in place as Thurles and Croke Park. We will review how it goes at the weekend and make a decision on what system best suits the stadium needs and budget.”
Chairman Ger Lane said the Cork County Board expect close to sell-out crowds at the weekend.
“These are major fixtures in their own right but from the feedback we are getting there is a big curiosity factor at play,” he said.
“People are excited at the prospect of coming to a brand new stadium and they will not be disappointed.”