GAA Football

'New Casement Park will have more seats for public despite premium level': Ulster GAA

Contractors at the Casement Park site in Andersonstown, west Belfast last year. Picture by Mal McCann.

THE number of tickets available to the public for big games at the proposed new Casement Park would still exceed the capacity of St Tiernach’s Park, Clones despite the presence of a premium level, Ulster GAA has said.

The planned redevelopment of the west Belfast venue has been hit not only by delays but also by a reduction of almost 4,000 on the capacity originally sought by the GAA.

Initial plans were for a 38,000 all-seater stadium, but that figure has since been reduced to 34,186, which will include capacity for approximately 8,500 persons on standing terracing.

The new stadium, however, is also set to include a corporate hospitality suite. In response to a query from The Irish News, Ulster GAA has revealed that the number of premium seats available would be 2,162.

There is no premium level in the Monaghan venue, whose own future as a provincial stadium depends on whether the Casement Park redevelopment goes ahead.

The number of premium tickets alone would reduce the number of tickets potentially available for general admission at the new Casement to 32,034.

However, once tickets for players, sponsors and dignitaries are taken out of that, the true number of tickets that would be available to the general public, either through clubs and counties or general sale, would be lower again.

But Ulster Council say that the number of general admission tickets would be greater in the new stadium than is currently the case for games such as the Ulster final in Clones.

“In addition there will be increased capacity and quality of facilities for persons with disability, special needs, players, press and match officials,” said Ulster PRO Michael Geoghegan.

“The number of general admission tickets will be in excess of the number currently available for major capacity fixtures at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones.”

The average attendance at Ulster football finals over the last ten years has been 32,608, and the crowd at a decider has only dipped below 31,000 in that time, for Derry’s 2011 meeting with Donegal (28,364).

The biggest attendance during that time was for the 2012 encounter between Donegal and Down, which attracted a crowd of 34,696.

Casement Park has been closed since 2013, with planning permission initially passed for the new stadium in January 2014, only for a judicial challenge by Mooreland & Owenvarragh residents association to succeed in halting it later that year.

In submitting a new application in February 2017, the GAA reduced the proposed capacity as well as cutting the intended height of the stadium by almost 40ft, thanks in part to the introduction of planned terracing, but residents are still objecting to a stadium of greater than 25,000 capacity.

A decision is expected to be made on the application this spring by senior civil servants in the absence of a new executive at Stormont.

The delay in starting construction was also cited as a contributing factor in the decision of the 2023 Rugby World Cup oversight committee not to recommend Ireland’s bid for the tournament, which was subsequently awarded to France.

In his annual report to Ulster Convention, which was delivered last month, provincial secretary Brian McAvoy reiterated the need that both Ulster and Antrim have for the new stadium.

“The Casement Park stadium must and will be a positive catalyst for the Gaels of Ulster but in particular a ‘shot in the arm’ for Belfast as Ireland's second city.”

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