Northern Ireland news

Casement Park delays a 'real shame' as Antrim GAA opts for Corrigan Park

Antrim's Ryan Murray and London's Phillip Butler at Corrigan Park, Belfast, in February. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Brendan Hughes

ANTRIM'S footballers will play their upcoming All-Ireland qualifier in west Belfast's Corrigan Park in the absence a redeveloped Casement stadium.

With Casement closed since 2013, Antrim have been playing games at nearby Corrigan Park, which holds a maximum of only 2,600 people on match days, or travelling outside the county when larger venues are needed.

Antrim are entitled to home advantage for the round 2 qualifier as they are a Division Four side drawn against a Division Two county.

Capacity for spectators for the Kildare game will be just over 2,100.

Antrim had to play their recent Ulster Senior Football Championship match against Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh because Corrigan Park was considered too small.

Read More: Corrigan Park date with Kildare 'a shop window for west Belfast' says Conor Murray

Ulster GAA first announced its plan to build a major new stadium at Casement a decade ago, but the troubled project has faced numerous setbacks.

Revised stadium proposals were submitted in 2017 but have yet to receive planning permission.

Casement Park has been closed since 2013. This is what the new one will resemble should the GAA get planning permission

In March it emerged the projected cost of the new stadium has risen to £110 million – over 40 per cent more than the £77.5m originally budgeted.

Stormont had pledged £62.5m with the GAA providing £15m, but GAA chiefs have asked for more public money to help plug the £32.5m shortfall.

Civil servants say they cannot allocate more funding without ministerial approval.

Read More: Casement Park 'not linked' to 2030 Fifa World Cup bid, Stormont officials say

Northern Ireland has not had a power-sharing government since the DUP and Sinn Féin-led executive fell apart in 2017 in the wake of the RHI scandal.

Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said that for Antrim, it was "unfortunate that they don't have Casement Park to play in at this stage" and he hopes planning approval is granted soon.

 

Danny Hughes: Antrim's plight is a sorry one

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty, a former Armagh All-Ireland winner, said: "The ongoing delay in the redevelopment of Casement Park is a scandal that has deprived young men and women of the opportunity of playing in one of Ireland's great GAA amphitheatres.

"How many Antrim county players will have completed their county careers without experiencing the Casement cauldron atmosphere? Sadly, too many.

"We can't allow further generations of young sportsmen and sportswomen to be deprived of a facility they were promised and deserve."

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