Casement Park debacle cost Antrim promotion says Kevin Brady
FORMER Antrim attacker Kevin Brady has attributed the county’s failure to get out of NFL Division Four this year to the Casement Park fiasco.
The Saffrons have been without a home venue for the past six seasons, playing their home games on various club pitches as the once iconic West Belfast stadium lies derelict.
Development plans for a new provincial hub at the site have been stalled by a series of planning rows since proposals for a 38,000 capacity stadium were first lodged a decade ago.
Planning approval was granted in 2013, but quashed following a High Court challenge brought by a group of local residents. Revised plays for a reduced capacity stadium of 34,000 were submitted in 2017.
The situation has been further exacerbated by the absence of an Executive at Stormont for the past two years.
“When you take teams to a club ground, there’s not that same aura about it,” said Brady.
“It is great that they have got Corrigan Park, Creggan and St John’s and other grounds, but I would say it has contributed to the fact that we are staying in that division.”
Brady, who appeared regularly at Casement Park during a 15-year inter-county career between 1998 and 2013, fears that the current generation of Antrim footballers and hurlers will never get to play at the stadium.
“It seems that that is going to be the case for boys who are now in their mid to late twenties and beyond.“I don’t know how long it will take to get the stadium built when it all gets passed and given the go-ahead, but I hope to see as soon as possible.“I was lucky that I played through my career when we were able to play there.
“It’s a real shame that the players that are there at the minute are not able to go out and play on their own home county ground.
“It’s what every young player who dreams of playing for their home county senior team wants to do, and a lot of players are going to miss that.”
The Ulster Council recently expressed renewed optimism that the project,now estimated to cost £110m, can get under way in the near future.
Moneyglass clubman Brady, now coaching at Tyrone club Donaghmore, hopes the development plans do not suffer further setbacks.
“I just hope it gets sorted out sooner rather than later.
“I would like to see it built, because it will definitely give the county a lift when that happens.“I used to go up there when I was young with my dad to watch matches, and it was an iconic place in West Belfast.“It is really sad, and I just hope it’s sorted out soon.”
Brady was a central figure in Antrim’s memorable run to an Ulster football final in 2009, but sees little hope of a repeat this year.
The Saffrons are due to meet the winners of the preliminary round clash of Tyrone and Derry in their Ulster SFC quarter-final.
“We’re going to be up against it, there’s no doubt, there’ll not be a great expectation on the team.“But that’s maybe when they can go out with no pressure and put in a good performance.”