Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

New-look Casement Park revealed

Plans for how Casement Park will look after redevelopment
Plans for how Casement Park will look after redevelopment

Antrim chairman Jim Murray has hailed the release of the first image of the new-look Casement Park and believes that this marks another big stride towards the dawn of a new era within Ulster GAA.

And Murray has been joined in welcoming this latest development in the massive refurbishment plan for the ground by his brother-in-law, former Northern Ireland international soccer star Gerry Armstrong.

Murray's dynamic leadership and desire to see the west Belfast venue become one of the top four sporting stadia in Ireland has had much to do with the progress which has been made in the planning process to date and he admits that he can't wait for work to start later this year on what will be a three-year project."We hope to have the ground completely transformed and in use for the 2016 Ulster football final," enthuses Murray.

"I think the release of the image of what the new ground will look like will generate massive interest and this is exactly what the Stadium Project Board want at this juncture."

The Ulster Council's Head of Public Affairs Ryan Feeney confirms that the stadium re-development represents a significant step forward for the GAA in Ulster.

"When the work is completed Casement Park will be a state of the art stadium in every possible sense. This is a big step forward for Antrim an for the province and the new venue will become a jewel in the Association's crown," maintains Feeney.

Murray, meanwhile, is immersed in work at grassroots level to facilitate the project and suggests that it will provide "a massive boost" for the Association.

"It will be a dream come true for us when it is completed, a massive boost altogether" he adds.

Armstrong, a GAA player of note before attaining soccer fame, hails the work that is being done by an army of volunteers in Antrim.

"I know Jim lives, sleeps and breathes GAA – he's either going to a meeting or coming from one. The re-development of Casement Park is a wonderful undertaking and will have massive benefits for the economy as well of course as the GAA," says Arsmtrong.

And he hopes to see Antrim prosper in football and hurling.

"It's good to see that Frank Dawson's boys got their league campaign off to a start against Cavan. Hopefully they can push on and maybe gain promotion – that would be a big bonus," says Armstrong.

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Armagh is making a concerted drive to pay off debts which have been accrued of late.

Already a new-formed fund-raising committee is fully immersed in drawing up a series of innovative projects aimed at easing the fianncail pressure under which the county has been labouring of late.

New football manager Paul Grimley is giving his full backing to the fund-raising campaign which will incorporate a massive open-air concert featuring Nathan Carter at the Athletic Grounds in April.

The county board has of course completed the massive refurbishment of the Athletic Grounds which has proved a drain on resources despite grant aid for the project.

While county board officials take justifiable pride in their impressive stadium, they must now turn their attention to the fact that Croke Park chiefs have pinpointed Armagh as one of a small number of counties about which they harbour concerns in relation to debt repayments.

Tipperary, Waterford and Sligo are among other counties grappling with financial woes but Armagh is the only Ulster county to have been pinpointed by Headquarters.

Indeed, on a wider front, there are worries that the overall financial situation within the GAA could deteriorate.

The attendance figures for last week-end's opening round of Allianz Football League games were far from encouraging, sparking fears that some counties could perhaps face even bigger financial burdens should this trend continue. The double-header at Croke Park involving four counties drew only 29,000 fans while there were only sparse attendances at the Galway v Derry and Monaghan v Meath matches.

The GAA will seek to introduce measures next year that will prevent counties from running up the type of consecutive deficits that got Kildare into such trouble last year when they required two 'bailouts'.

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