10 June 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Michael Fisher

As Monaghan took the first step in Clones on Sunday towards retaining the Ulster football championship, the GAA in Ulster is proceeding with plans to start re-building Casement Park stadium next year. The first matches at the new £77 million ground could be played in 2019 and Casement could be ready to host its first Ulster senior football final in July 2020.
 President of the Ulster Council Michael Hasson, an Antrim man, has welcomed the progress made on re-launching the plan. He said since opening in 1953 Casement Park had played a significant role in the development, promotion and profile of Gaelic Games in Belfast, Antrim and across Ulster. The GAA as a proud community organisation embedded in communities and open to everyone thrived on community spirit. The Casement Park project, he said, represented an opportunity to invest in a community that the Association was proud to be a part of.
 Mr Hasson told the Northern Standard he hoped the new Casement Park would be able to host the Ulster final. But he stressed that this did not mean the end of Clones as a major venue. On the contrary, the GAA was keen to develop Clones to be on a par with the new Kingspan Breffni Park and with the re-developed stadium in Belfast, the biggest urban centre in Ulster. He himself was a member of the committee planning the redevelopment of Clones.
 Last year on two separate occasions the GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail stated that the GAA would never abandon Clones as a venue for major games. He told members of Monaghan County Council that Clones had nothing to fear from a major redevelopment at Casement Park. But he stopped short of guaranteeing that St Tiernach’s Park would remain as the exclusive home of the Ulster football final. He said Clones was the same as Breffni and there would always be a
significant need for it.
 The original plans for the new stadium on the Andersonstown Road in West Belfast to host up 38,000 people were drawn up in 2012 and lodged with the planning service in July 2012. But they ran into difficulty soon afterwards and a legal action was taken by a group of local residents opposed to the project because of its size. A civil servant also raised concerns about crowd safety issues.
 In the meantime Ulster Rugby’s Ravenhill ground and soccer’s Windsor Park have both had millions of pounds pumped into their redevelopment by the Stormont Executive. When the plans for Casement were first published it was envisaged that the stadium would open by 2016 but so far no work has taken place and the main gates remain locked.
 Former Department of Culture Arts and Leisure Minister …

Comments are closed.