Larry McCarthy: Irish government’s €50m pledge ‘a significant boost’ to Casement Park project

Outgoing GAA President wouldn’t be drawn on Association’s contribution

GAA president Larry McCarthy
GAA president Larry McCarthy GAA president Larry McCarthy

GAA President Larry McCarthy has described the Irish government’s €50m pledge towards the redevelopment of Casement Park as a ‘significant boost’ to the project.

It remains to be seen, however, how much the GAA itself will contribute towards the construction of the Andersonstown Road stadium.

The GAA’s initial agreement was to make £15m available and they have consistently stood over that figure.

But with build costs spiralling over the decade that the stadium has lain derelict, the Association may have to dig significantly deeper.

McCarthy, who is at the end of his three-year tenure and who will be replaced by Jarlath Burns this weekend, refused to speculate on how much the GAA may provide.

“First of all, we need to know what the ultimate price is,” said McCarthy.

“That’s critical in terms of any consideration of what we do but we’ll obviously take this news and consider it at management.”

Asked if enough progress may be made between now and the weekend to allow for a figure to be released at the Annual Congress gathering in Newry, McCarthy shrugged.

“Depends on what news we get between now and Friday night,” he said.

“I suspect that it’ll get mentioned this weekend but depending on how much information we get in the interim, it won’t get the consideration that it probably needs. But it’s a massive injection, the government funding.”

McCarthy said the GAA weren’t aware that the Irish government had decided on a figure prior to the announcement.

“No, we weren’t aware of it at all,” said the Cork man.

“It’s a significant boost to Casement Park, a significant boost to the project and hopefully now we’ll see it come to fruition. We’ve been very patient waiting for it but it’s great that it’s going to get that boost.

“We’ll take that into consideration but ultimately we still don’t know what the total cost is going to be so that’s an important consideration but it’s very, very good news in terms of Casement for the Ulster Council, for Antrim GAA and the GAA in general. It’ll be huge, it’ll be a magnificent step forward once it gets done.”

Preparation works began on the site this week with 2027 earmarked as the completion date. The venue will be required to host games at the EURO 2028 soccer tournament.

Time is not on the GAA’s side after more than a decade of delays and McCarthy was reminded that the issue of funding Casement isn’t going away.

“Nobody thought it was going away,” he retorted before welcoming the apparent progress. “We finally seem to be getting progress. The critical thing is how much it is going to cost and how much difference does the €50m make to the balance.”

McCarthy was at Croke Park for the announcement that the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association will be officially integrated by 2027. Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese has chaired an integration committee over the last 18 months and remains committed to the project.

Artists impression of the redeveloped Casement Park
Artists impression of the redeveloped Casement Park

Camogie chief Hilda Breslin said she is ‘exceptionally confident that integration will happen in 2027′ with the GAA set to retain its name and merge with the two sister organisations. McCarthy acknowledged that it has yet to be decided how female player expenses will be financed when integration is complete.

“It’s going to be difficult, we’re going to have to figure that out somehow,” said McCarthy. “It will be a long road getting to there but ultimately there will be parity of esteem. What that means in terms of the whole cost to the association, I’m not sure because we haven’t figured that out.”

McCarthy rejected the suggestion that the agreement plan is short on detail and may be built upon sand.

“No, it’s not built on sand, it’s built on the basis that we were asked to do it and we’re going to do it,” he said.