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£138m bonanza for local stadiums

By Jim Gracey

Northern Ireland sport is heading for its biggest ever cash boost, totalling a massive £138m.

The Government funding will go towards the construction and redevelopment of new stadiums for football, rugby and Gaelic Games at all levels.

Football and Gaelic are the biggest beneficiaries, landing a whopping £61.4million each.

A new GAA 40,000-capacity showpiece on the site of the current Casement Park will make the west Belfast stadium the country's biggest.

Football will see a new 20,000 all-seater international venue rise at Windsor Park and, significantly, new stadiums in east Belfast and Derry.

The development in the east of the city will almost certainly be the long-awaited new home for Glentoran, a 10,000-seater, directly opposite George Best City airport, and incorporating a national football training centre. Crusaders will also get help with their planned move along Belfast Lough shore.

Rugby's modest £15million share, by comparison, will go towards further improvements at already enhanced Ravenhill.

All three sports will benefit from facilities upgrades all the way down to club and junior level. They will also have to find substantial funding of their own.

The release of the funding represents a major triumph by Sports Minister Nelson McCausland in the face of pressure on spending in the new Assembly four-year budget, pushed through this week.

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