Staying grounded, the stories behind the names of Cork GAA club venues

Various people have received the honour of a ground being christened after them - but some notable arenas lack official names
Staying grounded, the stories behind the names of Cork GAA club venues

Erin's Own's Andrew Power is chased by Andy Walsh of Killeagh in their clash at Midleton in 2017. The ground's official name is Clonmuly Memorial Park, in honour of those who died in the Clonmult ambush in 1921. Picture: Andy Jay

WITH Dungourney still to be ticked off the list of Cork venues where I have covered a game, the road north from Midleton is not one with which I am hugely familiar.

Last year, though, a trip to Leahy’s Open Farm – highly recommended and do splash the extra €2 for the mini-digger driving – brought the car along there and I noticed a signpost for Clonmult.

Now, Midleton has been a venue to which I have been posted on more than a few occasions, but I had always assumed that its official name – Clonmult Memorial Park – related to a person rather than a place. Technically, it does refer to people: after seeing the signpost, I read up on the ambush there, the centenary of which was commemorated at the beginning of this year.

While the two main stadiums in Cork are known by their associations with Pádraig Ó Caoimh and Christy Ring – and it’s interesting to note that ‘Christy Ring Park’ was used quite a bit in the media before Páirc Uí Rinn gained ubiquity – most other venues are merely referred to by their geographic locations.

That’s understandable, to a degree – the county board’s two facilities are just down the road from each other and we can’t just say ‘the big one’ and ‘the smaller one’, while the identifier of the official ground name isn’t necessary when you’re travelling to a parish where everybody simply refers to “the pitch”.

It should be said that some of Cork’s most prominent clubs have unchristened homes – though the Glen Field (Glen Rovers) and Church Road (Blackrock) have become just as storied in any case. One which would benefit from greater exposure – and I promise to use it in future match reports – is the Power Mills for Ballincollig, not least because it will allow for excellent shooting puns.

Incidentally, it would appear that, while clubs cannot be named after living people, there is no such veto on grounds. The home of St Finbarr’s in Togher, was officially opened in 1962 and the name Neenan Park attached, in honour of former Barrs player Con Neenan – he had emigrated to the USA and become a successful businessman, to the extent that he provided an interest-free loan to the loan to help with the purchase of the land.

When Bandon opened their new grounds in 1971, freedom fighter Charlie Hurley, who had died 50 years earlier in the War of Independence, was given the naming rights. 

Given the GAA’s links with the clergy going right back to the beginning, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a few grounds were named in honour of priests. While Cloughduv’s newer complex has yet to be given a title (along with those of Clonakilty and Mallow), their previous site was known as Fr O’Driscoll Park while Charleville’s home is Dr Mannix Sportsfield, named for Daniel Mannix, who moved to Australia and became Archbishop of Melbourne.

Two nice examples come from Dunmanway and Ballygarvan, each honouring local sons who also have notable trophies named after them. Dohenys’ base is Sam Maguire Park, while Ballygarvan’s is Liam MacCarthy Cup.

You might have noticed that any of people mentioned above are all men and be wondering if there are any examples, other than Markievicz Park in Sligo, of stadiums honouring women. Well, leaving aside those dedicated to Saints Mary (Castleblayney), Brigid (Kilcormac-Killoughey) or Ita (Kileedy), there is one stand-out instance in Cork. Ballydesmond GAA Club pay tribute to one of the area’s most famous people – Nora Herlihy, a founder of the Credit Union movement – by playing at a venue named for her.

As the GAA, camogie and ladies’ football move, glacially slowly, towards a single governing body, is it something we could see more of? Donoughmore’s grounds are called after Owen McCarthy, so Rena Buckley and Juliet Murphy might not be able to honoured as such, but how about Páirc Bríd Ní Chorcora for Cloughduv?

Or, if Killeagh were to honour the first woman to become chairperson of Cork County Board, Tracey Kennedy, all they would need is a ceremony to extend the dedication – the club’s grounds are already named Páirc Uí Chinnéide in honour of her uncle, Richard.


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