Cork GAA move forward with big events in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Kevin Walsh appointment

'GAA alone will not put enough bums on seats to help finance the debt while also covering the financial needs to run Cork on a day-to-day basis'
Cork GAA move forward with big events in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Kevin Walsh appointment

Munster's Kiran McDonald and Jason Jenkins of South Africa Select XV in a line-out at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

CORK GAA is in danger of growing up, if the past few weeks are anything to go by.

No doubt there are plenty of Cork GAA folk out there who would disagree entirely with that statement.

To some the sight of a Gilbert rugby ball being cheered as it was kicked into the north stand of Páirc Uí Chaoimh was a dagger in the heart, a negative Rubicon never to be recrossed, but for most observers, it was a sign of progress, as well as one of necessity.

Even the most one-eyed conservative Cork GAA supporter will probably acknowledge that their viewpoint is now very much in the minority and is one that is shrinking faster than the Amazon rainforest.

The 20th-century politics that drive that kind of stance simply no longer exists.

POSITIVE

Watching Munster host a South African A side at a packed Páirc Uí Chaoimh for a lucrative money-spinning ‘friendly’ may have rankled in some quarters, as the home of Cork GAA opened its doors to rugby union for the first time, but in years to come it will be seen as a positive moment for GAA and rugby alike.

It is unlikely to be a one-off affair either. The next time Munster qualify for a big European semi-final and are looking for a venue in Ireland that is big enough to hold it they don’t have to automatically turn to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. They can now host the game on Munster soil, and better still, Cork GAA can get in on the act by taking their share of the gate. Everyone wins.

Munster’s Simon Zebo celebrates after the South Africa game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh with his children. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Munster’s Simon Zebo celebrates after the South Africa game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh with his children. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

We all know the crippling debts that Cork GAA has acquired on the back of rebuilding the stadium, and, like it or not, GAA alone will not put enough bums on seats to help finance the debt while also covering the financial needs to run Cork GAA on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, Munster, Ed Sheeran and Elton John are needed, just as much as your Nemo Rangers and your St Finbarr’s. 

The GAA may be an amateur sport, but there is nothing amateur about the finances required to keep the show on the road.

Kerry GAA this week announced that they spent €850,000 in 2022 on their senior football team on the way to this year’s All-Ireland success. That is a huge, eye-watering, amount of money and the sheer scale of the figure serves to illustrate the kind of investment required by any county harbouring any ambitions of achieving Sam Maguire glory.

Of course, it is easier to spend that much on a team when Kerry were also able to announce profits of almost €1m for the year, with the increase in royalties from Kerry sportswear jumping from €133,000 to €547,000 being a major part of that. It is very much a chicken and egg situation. Success makes stars, or is it that having stars brings success? Kerry football certainly has stars in the likes of David Clifford and Sean O’Shea, and success has followed as a result.

It definitely makes it easier to sell sports gear when you have players like that. Cork need their own versions of Clifford and O’Shea.

The second sign that Cork GAA is maturing came on the back of the announcement that former Galway manager Kevin Walsh has been appointed as the new coach of the Cork senior footballers.

Former Galway and Sligo football manager Kevin Walsh
Former Galway and Sligo football manager Kevin Walsh

Kildare’s Cian O’Neill was obviously recently involved in a coaching capacity on Leeside too, but for a county that rarely goes outside of the county bounds when it comes to making such appointments, the appointment of Walsh will have certainly caught the eye nationally.

Walsh may have a reputation for being an overly defensive coach, whose sides can sometimes struggle to do enough damage at the other end. 

Cork need to tighten up though. No county can expect to compete at the highest level without having solid structures in place and that is Walsh’s meat and drink.

The hope would be that Cork will be a harder nut to crack under his watch, and if a lot of key defenders that were on the injury list in 2022 return for 2023 then significant improvements can be expected on that front. Ultimately if Cork want to achieve success, then this will be achieved by maximising the revenue of Páirc uí Chaoimh and getting the right people into the right roles, regardless of where they hail from.

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