Paraic Duffy concerned by 'desperately slow' Casement Park project

How Casement Park will look when it is completed
From Paul Keane at Croke Park

PARAIC Duffy has revealed his concerns about the Casement Park redevelopment project which he termed ‘desperately slow’.

The GAA Director General insisted that the stadium will still be built but acknowledged that the delays have been hugely frustrating.

Duffy was speaking in the context of the report by World Rugby’s technical review group on Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 World Cup.

“At time of writing, we understand that this venue is still subject to final planning approval,” the report noted of Casement Park, which was included in Ireland’s bid.

Duffy moved to clarify that funding for the redevelopment of the Belfast venue was never tied in with a successful hosting bid and remains in place.

But he acknowledged that the entire process has dragged on a long time and has been difficult for all involved.

“I’m worried about Casement Park from a GAA point of view because it has gone on for so long,” said Duffy.

“I’m here since 2008 and 2009 was the first time the Ulster Council approached us about funding for Casement Park. I’m worried in that, eight years on, they still haven’t got planning permission.

“I’m worried about it from a GAA point of view, and obviously the Rugby World Cup point of view. But I do believe Casement will get there. I honestly believe that. But it’s desperately slow.

“The GAA money is there. We’ve given a commitment already. I assume the money is still there from the British government. So the money is still there. Everyone is working on the basis that it will go ahead.”

The review into GAA stadia concluded that Pearse Stadium in Galway and Kerry’s Fitzgerald Stadium ‘require a significant level of overlay which is flagged as a risk, given the amount of work required to bring these venues up to RWC standard’.

These issues contributed to Ireland’s bid being considered the weakest of the three with a final decision to come on November 15.

“I’m a member of the Oversight Bid Committee so it’s a matter for the IRFU to make a comment,” said Duffy.

“The one thing I’d say is it’s not the (final) decision. But what has come out is disappointing. But it’s not the final decision. I’ve no doubt that the bid team will work really, really hard over the next couple of weeks.”

On the issue of criticism of the standard of GAA venues, the Monaghan man shrugged.

“I wasn’t aware of that,” he said, speaking minutes after the review was made public.

“All I will say is, we offered our stadia as they are. Everybody recognised that if the tournament does come here, work will have to be done to the stadia. There is nothing new in that.”

Duffy was speaking at yesterday morning’s announcement of the GAA Master Fixtures Plan 2018.

He said that no consideration was given to playing League or Championship games on Friday nights under lights, to help free up more time for club activity.

“No, Friday night games aren’t a runner for the reason that players work,” he said.

“A few years ago Carlow played Laois on a Friday, you had two counties side by side. As a once-off that kind of game is a possibility but beyond that, no. The players have work and it wouldn’t be possible.

“Inevitably if you take two counties to play in a Championship match on a Friday night, then there’s a distance to travel, fellas will time off work and we can’t do that, the rules don’t allow it. I don’t see it happening.”

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