The John Horgan column: Clarity is needed on Páirc’s final costs as debt casts a shadow

The John Horgan column: Clarity is needed on Páirc’s final costs as debt casts a shadow
Pairc Ui Chaoimh, with Pairc Ui Rinn in the background (top right) as seen from Monenotte. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IT HAS not been a great week for GAA matters on Leeside and there’s no point in saying otherwise.

The revelation last Friday that the overall cost of the construction of the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh had risen to €110, million caught everyone’s attention, that is €40, million over what was originally priced at €70 million.

As was stated in one newspaper during the week, that is a 57% differential.

Every construction of a magnitude similar to Páirc Uí Chaoimh is going to run over the original price but this one was almost beyond comprehension.

The Cork County Board, however, was having none of that figure of €110 million and insisted that it was €86 million.

That figure was still €16 million above the one that was announced in 2014 before the operation began at all.

Confused, well so is everybody else in the county and beyond, so much so that two directors of the new stadium, builder Michael O’Flynn and another businessman, Tom Gray from Dublin have been tasked with finding out just exactly what did the whole project cost.

It was Croke Park Commercial Director Peter McKenna who revealed the figure of €110 million, an altogether different one to what county board chair Tracey Kennedy revealed to the annual county convention.

So what are we to make of it all? Does anybody know the final figure that was reached to complete what is a magnificent piece of construction, one that all Cork people should be immensely proud of.

If the disparity in the figures, if it’s €110 million and not the €86 million that the county board are saying, how is that going to be paid off.

The Cork county board has already stated that the clubs in the county will not be levied.

And even if there was a levy imposed, how could the clubs pay it when they are struggling financially themselves to keep their heads above water.

It’s all very confusing really and the sooner the findings of those entrusted with discovering the actual cost are made known the better.

It’s an issue that is going to dominate the landscape of the association over the festive period and answers are going to have to be provided sooner rather than later.

The first county board meeting is not until the last Tuesday in January and there are sure to be a lot of questions put to the top table on that occasion.

There are many, of course, who stated that it was too much money altogether to spend on a stadium and that it could have been done by a major renovation to the existing Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

There is greater interest too from around the country because the spend required a grant of €20 million from headquarters on Jones’ Road.

Big stadiums these days are rarely full and there’s a school of thought that there’s too many of them altogether.

After all, Croke Park is only full for two games in the year, both All-Ireland finals although you had 70,000 plus for Cork and Limerick in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final.

Stadium capacities are only tested a few times now and outside of the Munster hurling final, provincial finals don’t generate the crowds of yesteryear.

Look at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, they had no inter-county game of real significance this year and won’t have the Munster final back there until 2020.

The new format of the Munster SHC guarantees that the Gaelic Grounds will have a large attendance for Limerick’s two home games, the first one against Cork next Summer.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be heaving for Cork and Tipperary in May and maybe for Cork and Waterford subsequently but that will be it.

All-Ireland quarter-finals haven’t generated anywhere near a half decent house and only 10,000 plus were present for Clare and Wexford this year.

What is needed now is certainty on the final cost of Páirc Uí Chaoimh and how things will progress from there.

It was certainly a week when finances dominated the headlines and Galway featured most prominently.

County Board treasurer Michael Burke painted a very disturbing picture of past financial activities at the county convention last Monday night.

Reports of a credit card being used for personal expenses and other financial mismanaging did not make for pretty reading.

There was a comment from a member of an internal audit committee that the past culture had been rotten to the core.

There was a report of missing records and minutes of the previous AGM not being found.

For those in that part of the country, it certainly must have been very disturbing reading.

So what it all means, of course, is that Croke Park are being kept busy with financial matters in the west as well as in the south.

Meanwhile, staying with financial matters and on a more positive note.

The Munster Council Development Grants were handed out last night to clubs from across the county.

Grants amounting to €220, 000 were handed over to a host of clubs north, south, east and west of the county and it was another illustration of the strategy and vision of the provincial council regarding the ongoing support for the development of club property throughout the county.

County Board development Officer Pat Horgan was on hand to present the cheques ranging from over €20,000 to €1,000.

If it’s €110 million and not the €86 million that the county board are saying, how is that going to be paid off.

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