Mac Ferran family make a stand over Casement Park
THE eldest son of the driving force behind the original funding and building of Casement Park has called for a stand to be named after his father when the famous ground is eventually re-developed.
Ciaran Mac Ferran has also labelled the current state of the west Belfast venue “heart-breaking” after all the work put into it by his dad Seamus and others.
Seamus Mac Ferran was Antrim county board chairman in 1946 when he and Tom Crummey decided that two large fields at Andersonstown should be bought to become the new county ground.
In the following years the Belfast native led the fundraising drive to raise more than £100,000 and Casement Park was officially opened on June 14, 1953.
“With sheer hard graft they got there,” says Ciaran Mac Ferran. “When they chose that site people thought it was sheer madness – ‘Way out there?! Are you mad?! You must be stupid!’
“But they stretched themselves, they bought those fields, and maybe the finances weren’t just there to buy more of the adjacent space; they didn’t expect Belfast to grow so rapidly either. That has come back to haunt them.”
Casement has lain dormant since 2013, due to objections to the proposed redevelopment plans, leading Ciaran Mac Ferran to comment:
“To see Casement not being used is heart-breaking. Any facility should be used, should not be a ghost town. It’s very sad to see it become derelict.
“But it can be refreshed. I was happy to see it being used for a bit of farming, someone cutting silage, but they could have insisted that he spray it for weeds, keep it tidy.
“It just looks unkempt, it looks sad – but that could be fixed in half a season. That’s all it needs, weed-killer. It just gives a bad impression, of not being cared for, not being thought of.
“Of course, they’re waiting for decisions, like so many other things in Northern Ireland. We’re waiting on Stormont.”
If and when Casement Park is re-born, Ciaran makes the case for his father’s contribution to be commemorated properly:
“We would like to think it will be when Casement is rejuvenated, he deserves something. It was his creation, he and Tom Crummey, those two men were the stand-outs.
“Seamus, who wanted to do it, and ‘Come on, Tom’, dad needed company and reassurance, when they discovered the land where Casement was going to be and started asking questions.
“I would love to think that he would be honoured when it comes to naming stands at [a new] Casement, because that was his baby, from day one. He was told he was mad.
“I would love to see his name in lights, the light that he deserves. It could be in a small way, it doesn’t have to be a stand, it could be a room, who knows? But I think he’s more deserving than most. He should be up there at the top of the list.
“He wouldn’t have asked it, he’d be the last to consider it for himself, so we’ve got to do it. I’ll put his name forward for that.”
Mac Ferran makes the case that Casement was the home of Ulster GAA before ‘the Troubles’ intervened:
“Clones, to my mind, is relatively new. Then Casement was side-lined through the troubled years and Clones took over. It was much safer for people to spectate there.”
*See pages 86-87 for a feature on the life of Seamus Mac Ferran.