The Christy O'Connor column: Páirc woes can be overcome once the Cork teams get firing in the summer

The Christy O'Connor column: Páirc woes can be overcome once the Cork teams get firing in the summer
Picture: Dan Linehan

IN his Irish Examiner column last Saturday, Anthony Daly wrote about heading to Cork for the Cork-Wexford game the following day, primarily to see what kind of a response John Meyler’s side would deliver after what Daly thought was a bloodless performance the previous weekend against Kilkenny.

Yet Daly also spoke about being slightly intrigued to see what kind of an atmosphere would be in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“A sort of doom and gloom has descended around the venue after the figures from the spiralling debt were released before Christmas,” he wrote. 

“You’re not going to pay off a chunk of that money with a crowd for a league game, or wash away some of the greyness with a pyrotechnic hurling display in February, but I’m curious to see how the public react to the background of frustration.” 

Daly was disappointed with the performance again on Sunday. He felt that the atmosphere was flat but he was equally as concerned about the state of the pitch.

“The pitch was horrendous,” wrote Daly in his column on Monday. 

“You’d have seen better at the Ploughing Championship. ‘This place is lovely and shiny until you look down,’ I said to Mul (Tomás Mulcahy). ‘That pitch might do for Rod Stewart and U2 but it ain't much good for hurling.’"

Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The pitch must be frustrating for the players, and the supporters, but that’s a different subject to the one Daly raised a couple of days earlier. 

So are the locals still frustrated and upset by that lingering debt?

That seems to be the outside perception but the view on the ground in Cork is different, primarily because the topic is so abstract.

It’s probably similar to a couple in their 20s taking out a massive mortgage on a big, new house and, how they view the future repayments; the figures look colossal and slightly worrying, but they sign on the dotted line and let time sort out the rest.

The future will always be the future; if the couple thought about the massive repayments and the huge levels of interest that will accrue over time, they wouldn’t be able to function with worry and anxiety. They just do what they have to do in the now, which is making the monthly repayments.

It’s a similar situation in Cork. 

The debt is the debt. It’s not going anywhere but a strategy has been put in place to keep making the monthly repayments, and to generate enough cash to be able to trim the debt in time.

There are still some worries on the ground about the prospect of levies being placed on clubs to help with the colossal repayments. 

When Tom Ryan, the GAA’s Director General, was asked that question last week, he was vague in his response. 

“I can’t comment,” replied Ryan. “That is one for Cork to manage really.” 

Levying the clubs is extremely unlikely to happen. 

Some feel that the county board can’t afford not to apply some form of levy but the new regime, under Kevin O’Donovan, are unlikely to go down that route.

There has already been huge positivity to date with the new leadership. 

At the last county board meeting, there were people continuously standing up and asking questions. In the past, many of those delegates would have been reluctant to ask the top table anything.

Over the years, some delegates fought to get the minutes of some of those meetings published and it was a continual struggle. Without anyone even asking, the minutes of the last meeting were up on the website shortly afterwards.

A full review of the club fixtures schedule was recently announced and will report back to the clubs in February/March, the first leg of which will be the welcomed reorganisation of the leagues.

The decision to allow free entry for all U16s to Cork's inter-county home games was also welcomed while the new regime smartly dealt with the recent U20 football managerial resignation. 

The subsequent appointment of Keith Ricken, with his broad knowledge of college-age footballers, was a sound and imaginative move in the circumstances.

The news that really caught the Cork GAA imagination though, is that the Cork ladies footballers will play two National League games at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the coming weeks. Assuming the stadium is actually open of course.

When Cork meet Tipperary there on February 23 – as part of a double-header with the Cork-Meath league match – it will, amazingly, be the first time that the Cork ladies have ever played a game at the stadium.

They will get another run out at the venue on March 16 when the Cork Ladies play Donegal, which precedes the men’s fixture between the same counties.

Ciara McCarthy and Niamh Cotter fail to stop the breaking Louise Ward. Picture: Dan Linehan
Ciara McCarthy and Niamh Cotter fail to stop the breaking Louise Ward. Picture: Dan Linehan

Much of that credit is surely down to O’Donovan. When he drew up his blueprint in 2016 of 25 proposals to arrest the decline of hurling and football in the county, number 19 on the 16-page document was titled ‘Extend the availability of our county grounds’.

O’Donovan was surely mindful of the Cork ladies because, despite their incredible success over the last two decades, they were never granted the opportunity to play in the Park. And now, they rightly have been.

At the annual convention at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in December, O’Donovan spoke of how any strategy for Gaelic games in Cork must serve GAA people of all ages, whether male or female, old or young, playing or non-playing, participatory or elite.

“It is my view that the Cork GAA family in its many varied forms is acutely poised to blossom into a new age of success on the field and growth off the field,” O’Donovan told delegates.

“We must face financial challenges together, in a united fashion and to truly bring (Páirc Uí Chaoimh) to life as ‘the people’s stadium’. That is your field.” 

It is. 

And any lingering worries about future debt repayments will soon recede once the new era continues to make positive advancements for Cork GAA. And any concerns will fade even further if Cork soon start winning All-Irelands again.

The hurlers will be a better team once Seamus Harnedy is back fit. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
The hurlers will be a better team once Seamus Harnedy is back fit. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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