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GAA President calls for opinions on new Casement Park

By Declan Bogue

GAA President Aogan O'Fearghail has offered his assurances that the upcoming amended planning application for a new Casement Park would be subject to a 12-week consultation period with the major stakeholders.

"You do need to discuss with people," he explained.

"A very important part of the amended planning application is that there is to be a 12-week consultation period. Everyone has rights.

"It's important during that 12-week consultation that that does happen, between the GAA, the community and everybody involved in it. That will be starting soon and I hope it is done well."

O'Fearghail was in Belfast for the launch of the Feasibility Study of the Andersonstown Community, Sporting and Cultural Hub, which aims to improve existing facilities for the O'Donovan Rossa club on Shaw's Road, in conjunction with other bodies including local primary schools and Northern Ireland Mental Health Association (NIAMH).

The Belfast club's ambition impressed him and he commented: "Without infrastructure, without facilities it's very difficult for a club to develop and I think they have a good plan in place.

"O'Donovan Rossa has a huge catchment, Belfast has a huge catchment, so all of us have to address that and facilities are a big part of it."

Referring to the judgement made by Justice Mark Horner last December which has halted progress on what will become the premier venue for Gaelic games in Ulster, O'Fearghail reasoned: "I thought it was a positive judgement. He said something very positive in that there was a need for the stadium. That's very important.

"He also said it was adequate in terms of size, size appropriate to its use, but he also identified issues of policing and traffic management."

He continued: "They are things that can be worked at and are being worked at. I am not hands-on, but I am aware that it is being worked through. It's not a new planning application, but a revised planning application."

Pressed on whether the stadium capacity may be reduced in order to allay the fears of the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association, O'Fearghail responded: "Not that I am aware of. The amendments will look into the four main items that he identified. They are being worked on. It's torturous, it's laborious, it's slow.

"A positive development that I have noticed lately is there is a new residents association that has been hugely supportive of it. I am glad to hear that and I spoke to some councillors here too who are canvassing for an election in this area, and they told us that when they meet people on their doorsteps they are supportive of the new residents group and want it to happen."

Last week there was a stir when it was reported that Director-General Paraic Duffy had not entirely closed the door on Croke Park selling its naming rights.

O'Fearghail sought to clarify what Duffy said, stating that the comments had been unfairly misrepresented.

He said: "If O'Donovan Rossa want to sell the rights to the name they can do that. That's allowed. Kingspan Breffni Park, for example.

"So the rules allow it. Could it happen in 20, 50 years? It might. But I am absolutely adamant that it won't happen in my presidency, and I don't think it is going to happen in the short term. We have other ways of generating income in Croke Park.

"Naming rights is a different issue, I wouldn't be keen on it for Croke Park."

Antrim Gaels in need of a lift will be encouraged by O'Fearghail's other revelation, that an announcement on their proposed Dunsilly training facility is expected shortly.

"It is something that we hope will be starting fairly soon," he noted.

"Dunsilly will do a lot, because you see the good of centres of excellence like Garvaghey in Tyrone and Cloghan in Monaghan."

Devlin hails McCorry’s big impact on Down

The fashion might be to cast inter-county footballers as hard-done by in the modern GAA, but don’t expect Down’s Paul Devlin to play along with it.

Right now, it’s easy to see why Devlin is loving life. This season, he has gone from being a fringe member of the Down panel to rubber-stamping his status as one of Jim McCorry’s ‘Untouchables’.

“That was my first National League campaign and I enjoyed every minute of it. I played 70 minutes in all of them,” the 24-year-old Kilcoo man explains.

He has a Division Two league final looming this Sunday against Roscommon, but he already has one eye on June 7, when Down open their Championship account with a trip to Celtic Park to take on Derry.

For one so new to the inter-county game, it has been notable how much faith his former club manager McCorry has thrust upon him, playing him in a variety of positions during their successful campaign.

McCorry has mixed intensive periods of work with complete rest, leading Devlin to praise his foresight in saying: “Jim is very good on player welfare. You couldn’t ask any more of him. He is always thinking of the players.

“He is the best manager I have ever had, I suppose because I have had him since I was 17.”

Explaining further, he continues: “He just gives players the self-confidence. No matter what you are in the squad, from number one to 33, the man will speak as if you are as important as anybody else and that’s what you need in a squad, you need everybody fighting for places and making the squad competitive.”

DOWN (v Roscommon, Div 2 final): S Kane; G Collins, L Howard, D Turley; D O’Hagan, B McArdle, C McGovern; P Turley, P Devlin; C Maginn, K McKernan, M Poland; C Laverty, C Mooney, D O’Hare.

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