GAA Football

Antrim chairman Ciaran McCavana: All systems go for Corrigan Park covered stand work

GAA officials including Ulster Council president Oliver Galligan, Antrim chairman Ciaran McCavana and St John's GAC officials pictured as the redevelopment of Corrigan Park, Belfast got under way yesterday morning  

ANTRIM GAA will finally have a roof over its head - but the new-look Corrigan Park will still not be equipped to host an Ulster Championship match.

The £1m investment will see the popular west Belfast venue get a 500-seater covered stand and a new terracing area that can accommodate 2,000 spectators.

Successive Antrim chairmen Collie Donnelly and Ciaran McCavana have continually lobbied for a “mini Parnell Park” venue and argued that the county couldn’t afford to wait on Casement Park being rebuilt.

Work has already begun at the Whiterock Road venue – Antrim’s designated second county ground – and will be completed at the end of August.

Corrigan Park’s face-lift will come as a welcome boost to Gaels as no ground in Antrim has a sufficiently big enough covered stand to stage inter-county matches.

But the modest capacity of Corrigan means the Antrim footballers will still be on the road in the Ulster Championship until Casement Park is re-opened.

Corrigan, however, did successfully stage last summer’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier with Kildare.

Speaking at Corrigan Park yesterday morning, chairman Ciaran McCavana paid tribute to the work done by his predecessors, former county officers Collie Donnelly and Terry Reilly, for "getting Antrim's house in order".

"Now, the next phase is continuing to get Antrim’s debt down and over the next 18 months we will be debt-free," said the Naomh Enna clubman.

“We secured £500,000 from Croke Park and £75,000 from Ulster Council and the rest of the money has come from clubs, Saffron Business Forum, the County Board, Club Aontroma and St John’s GAC,” said McCavana.

“It will be a £1m spend, so this is tangible. Something you can feel and touch. Corrigan Park is going to be a 500-seater covered stand plus 2,000 terracing. It will be ready at the end of August. I see it as Antrim’s ‘Parnell Park’. We’re not always going to be in Casement Park, when it’s built, and we mightn’t always need to be in it either.”

With the Stormont executive reformed, there is growing optimism work can commence on Casement Park, which has been closed since 2013.

The high-profile delay of the Casement rebuild has added £30m onto the original £77.5m cost.

“The cost of labour and steel have gone through the roof. That’s the reality,” McCavana said, who is a self-employed chartered accountant.

“People say: ‘What do these delays cost?’ They cost money. That’s the cost of the planning authorities being ineffective. These are the implications of the planning authorities not making a decision in three years and as a result costs increase.

“But once we get planning permission Casement should be a 21 to 24-month build. I think that’s realistic. We’re aiming for April or May to get the green light.”

In his programme notes for last Sunday’s National Hurling League game with Mayo, McCavana wrote: “Having endured six years of being a county without a ground with a covered stand, three of our clubs are at varying stages of developing seated covered stands for spectators.

“O’Donovan Rossa recent secured planning and funding to develop a 200-seater stand at Pairc Rosa…[and] Michael Davitt’s will open their amazing brand new facilities on Saturday February 8 with the visit of All-Ireland senior hurling champions Tipperary.”

Citing the commencement of work at Corrigan Park, the chairman thanked Glenavy and Loc gCaol clubs for their “commitment and assistance in providing us with homes for our national league games this year.”

McCavana also hopes to see more work being carried out at their Dunsilly centre of excellence site during his chairmanship where there are three fully functioning pitches, one of which belongs to resident club St Comgall's GAC.

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