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Casement decision due at end of year, says GAA president


By Declan Bogue

GAA President Aogan ÓFearghail has revealed it will not be until the end of the year that the association gets a definitive answer over its planning application at Casement Park. This comes in the light of revelations that the ongoing impasse over the building of the stadium in Belfast has already cost the GAA £9.2 million.

By way of coincidence, it also comes in the same week that Cork opened the gates to their ultra-sleek Pairc Uí Chaoimh on the banks of the River Lee.

"By the end of this calendar year we will get a definite yes or no, and that will be important," confirmed ÓFearghail on the future of Casement Park.

"We are opening Pairc Uí Chaoimh this week and it will be followed hopefully by Casement in a couple of years. They are two important developments but we can't interfere with the process," he added.

Asked if there was a contingency plan if permission was not granted for a second time - the project has been dogged in controversy with local resident groups objecting to the scale of the proposed building - he added, "We are focused on Casement and we will wait and see, and hopefully it will get a green light."

The Cavan man was steadfast in his belief that future deals over media rights will not be influenced by recent scorching remarks made in public. The Sunday Game analyst, former Offaly hurler Michael Duignan recently launched a broadside at the GAA while on air because the recent Kilkenny-Waterford hurling qualifier was screened on Sky, and not free-to-air.

Such attacks on the GAA have now become commonplace, with several RTÉ Gaelic games analysts using their media platforms to equate the Sky broadcasting deal, extended for another four years, with a greed for money on behalf of the GAA.

However, ÓFearghail believes that the lack of criticism coming from units of the association - clubs and county boards - is enough to encourage them.

"We are very open in the GAA; there are no bonuses accruing to anyone, I am a volunteer president," he stated.

"The media rights is about all that can go in. Do we want to go back to the day, which the GAA used to do, to pay a media provider to cover our games? Those days are all over, so there is no debate. There were 30 votes at Congress against the media rights deal. The debate is over."

He added, "I met with the other Irish sporting bodies six weeks ago and they all said the same thing to me. They said that they wished they were as relevant to Irish society as we were.

"That is just the reality; people will always have a view on the GAA. We have 750,000 members and we have probably 2,000,000 who are interested, so that is basically half the population."

Meanwhile, having lost Kevin McKernan to a black card in the Ulster final defeat to Tyrone, Down might have to do without the Burren man for the All-Ireland Round 4B qualifier against Monaghan.

McKernan picked up the black card after clashing with Sean Cavanagh in the decider, which was his third black card of the season having also picked the same punishment up in the closing stages of the Championship win over Armagh and the league win over Meath in Newry back in February.

Three black cards in a season means an automatic one-game ban. However, the nature of the black-card suspensions holds that any black card can only be appealed once three have accrued.

The extent of Mark Poland's injuries from the Ulster final have become clearer through the week. Poland came on as a substitute in the second half but became entangled in a wrestling match with Colm Cavanagh.

Reports suggest the Longstone man could have as many as 16 stitches after the ­incident.

Belfast Telegraph


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