Gaelic Athletic Association County Grounds Acquisition Location, Development, History and Architecture
Dara Challoner 07375204, Masters Dissertation, U.C.D. School of Architecture Tutor: Elizabeth Shotton April 2013
Table of Contents
Towns as Threshold.
Introduction Notes Acknowledgements
Hidden / Edge Trains Bicycles, Buses, Cars, and Pedestrians Match Day / Non Match-day
Changes in Circumstances which led to Development.
Acquisition and Development, a Slow Start. The Development Era, 1926- 1937. The Influence of Rules Grounds Schemes, Leinster Pound for Pound and Parks Committee
Recent Developments What could Happen? Case studies of Stadia development.
Where the G.A.A. situated the Grounds.
The Typical Example - St.Conlethâ€™s Park , Newbridge, Co.Kildare The Untypical Example - PĂĄirc Ui Chaoimh, Cork Co. Cork The Northern Example - Casement Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim.
Stadia Location Criteria Use of the Railway System Where did the G.A.A. get the Land? Barracks and Withdrawing Institutions Graveyard Connection Community Facilities, Workhouses and Hospitals Rivers and Waterways
Conclusion Bibliography. Appendix
The Vernacular Development. Interviews
How they came to be. A Slow Development, Accretion Mounds as Stands, the Natural Stadium Agricultural Aesthetic One Stand/One Covered
Donal McAnallen Cormac Moore Seamus Aldridge
Survey of County Grounds Notes on survey Breffni Park, Cavan Town, Cavan O’Connor Park, Tullamore, Offaly Markievicz Park, Sligo Town, Sligo Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon Town, Roscommon McHale Park, Castlebar, Mayo Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada, Carrick on Shannon, Leitrim St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones, Monaghan Semple Stadium, Thurles, Tipperary Wexford Park, Wexford town, Wexford O’Byrne Park, Aughrim, Wicklow Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow town, Carlow O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, Laois Cusack Park, Mullingar, Westmeath Parnell Park, Donnycarney, Dublin Croke Park, Drumcondra, Dublin Pairc Tailteann, Navan, Meath Drogheda Park, Drogheda, Louth Athletic Grounds, Armagh City, Armagh Healy Park, Omagh, Tyrone Brewster Park, Enniskillen, Fermanagh Celtic Park, Derry City, Derry Roger Casement Park, Belfast, Antrim St. Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, Kildare Pearse Park, Longford town, Longford Pairc Esler, Newry, Down Pairc ui Chaoimh, Cork City, Cork Fraher Field, Dungarvan, Waterford Pearse Stadium, Salthill. Galway Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, Kerry Nowlan Park, Kilkenny City, Kilkenny Gaelic Grounds, Limerick City, Limerick Cusack Park, Ennis, Clare MacCumhail Park, Ballbofey, Donegal 3
Introduction The intention of this dissertation is to establish an understanding and knowledge of the history of the thirty-three Gaelic Athletic Association county grounds as a collective piece of Irish Vernacular Architecture. To emphasize how important the G.A.A is in Ireland, especially in rural Ireland, Patrick Kavanagh, one of Ireland’s great poets summarises the situation; “Somebody has said that no man can adequately describe Irish life who ignores the Gaelic Athletic Association, which is true in a way, for football runs women a hard race as a topic for conversation.”1 This dissertation seeks to answer why the grounds came about initially as the G.A.A. grew and attracted many participants and huge crowds and in a structure based on county boundaries.2 The dissertation outlines the circumstances which led to the foundations of the stadia. In addition it examines the placement of the grounds, how the land was acquired and what made good sites for G.A.A. stadia. This dissertation analyses how they are constructed and their architectural forms. I also wish to explore how they function, the urban movement they generate with the crowds and the special needs of the stadia. To conclude are my own thoughts on the intelligence in construction and design of the stadia which keeps the G.A.A. strong.
Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, Flickr, accessed April 11 2013, (www.flickr.com/photos/kman999/908563925/sizes/l/in/photostream/)
Patrick Kavanagh, Gut Yer Man Jack Mahon, Galway GAA in old photographs (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan Ltd., 2002), introduction 1 2
The Gaelic Athletic Association describes itself as:
The G.A.A. is an organisation which has many levels in a pyramid structure. In this structure, Ireland is divided into 32 counties, with over 2,000 clubs in total, most of which have their own grounds, amounting to an average of over 50 stadia or pitches in each county. 5
‘Ireland’s largest sporting organisation and is celebrated as one of the great amateur sporting associations in the world today with 2,300 plus clubs worldwide. The GAA is a volunteer led, community based organisation that promotes Gaelic games such as Hurling, Football, Handball and Rounders and works with sister organisations to promote Ladies Football and Camogie. It is part of the Irish consciousness and plays an influential role in Irish society that extends far beyond the basic aim of promoting Gaelic games. The Association has its headquarters at Croke Park in Dublin where it has been based on a full time basis since 1908.’3
This research will be looking at the county level where each of the counties has a stadium. The repeating nature of the county stadia and their local connection and presence in towns of Ireland make them collectively important within the country and form a typology. Their size and history give the G.A.A. a psychological and physical presence in many towns in Ireland.6
The G.A.A. was officially founded on November 1st 1884 in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary. The following were present: Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin, John McKay, John Wise Power, John K Bracken, Thomas St George McCarthy, Patrick J. O’Brien and F. R. Maloney. Davin took the chair and in a short speech outlined what he considered to be the essential objectives of the proposed association: (a) To bring about the organisation of Irish sport by Irishmen. (b) To draft new rules to aid the revival of native Irish pastimes. (c) To devise schemes of recreation for the majority of the population, especially the poor.4 These three objectives which the G.A.A. was founded upon have been achieved with great success. These tenets outline the basis of the sporting organisation and also would lead to political factors within the G.A.A. which in turn would have mixed effects on the organisation. Hurling Club game, Oulart the Ballagh vs. Kilmacud Crokes, (Ryan Byrne) About the G.A.A, G.AA ., accessed January 7 2013, http://www.gaa.ie/about-the-gaa/ John Cassidy, Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games: A History of C.I.E G.A.A. Clubs (Dublin, Original Writing Ltd, 2009), p1-2 3 4
“About the G.A.A”, G.AA ., accessed January 7 2013, www.gaa.ie/about-the-gaa/ Cormac Moore, Interview with author, March 15 2013
G.A.A. will be used as shorthand for Gaelic Athletic Association.
After independence, the Independence Treaty was disputed by Pro-Treaty forces who wished to keep it despite the retention of six Northern counties by the United Kingdom, while Anti-Treaty forces wished to discard the agreement in hope of getting the six counties. This period June 28th 1922 â€“ May 24th 1923 were some the most chaotic times in the history of Ireland. The Pro-treaty forces won and would eventually take the political form of Fine Gael while Anti-Treaty Forces became a political entity in Fianna Fail. These are generally the two biggest political parties in Ireland.
Gaelic Football Played throughout Ireland, Gaelic Football is a mixture of soccer, rugby, and basketball. Hurling The other sport played in the mentioned county grounds, is an ancient game played at fast pace with sticks called hurleys and a small ball called a sliotar.
IRB, Home Rule Party and The Catholic Church These three groups were closely associated with the G.A.A. with their members having important roles in the organisation. The I.R.B., Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as Fenians, wished to secure independence by force, while the Home Rule Party hoped for a constitutional and legislative route to independence.
Handball The third sport of the G.A.A. is played by two players in a handball alley and is a game like squash using hands and not rackets to strike the ball County Stadia and County Grounds are synonyms, meaning the stadia used by the G.A.A. county teams for matches between counties as well as important club games within counties such as finals.
Pyramid Structure The G.A.A. pyramid consists of international, national, provincial, county and club levels. The most important are the club and county level, the club level means every parish in Ireland is involved in the G.A.A. The best club players play for the county teams. These 32 county teams play in the county grounds. Croke Park is also used for county games and is therefore included.
Free State, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland All of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom until 1921. 26 counties split and formed the Free State which in 1948 became fully independent from the U.K. The other 6 counties formed Northern Ireland and remain part of the United Kingdom. These political factors have an influencing impact on the G.A.A. The 6 Northern counties and 3 counties from the Republic form the 9 county province of Ulster. Different currencies, taxation systems and government grants have affected how the G.A.A. has been financed in different counties and the border means both Cork and Belfast can claim the title of Irelandâ€™s second city under differing parameters.
Board of Works This was a governmental body which evolved into the present day Office of Public Works. The responsibilities of these bodies are the ownership, upkeep and maintenance of government and other important buildings in Ireland which at times included the stadia. 6
Acknowldgements I would like to thank my dissertation tutor, Elizabeth Shotton for her guidance over the course of writing this dissertation, and for the special effort she made to develop an understanding of the G.A.A. Thanks to Mark Reynolds in the G.A.A. archive for his help and supplying an endless supply of information from the archives. Thanks to Donal McAnallen, Cormac Moore, and Seamus Aldridge for providing me with interviews and insightful information. Thanks to Shane Regan, Cathal Monaghan, Joe Stokes and my family for proofreading and feedback.
Changes in Circumstances which led to Development.
the Industrial Revolution in England; further in Ireland many of the social and economic changes which would empower the sporting revolution in Britain were absent. 9 Land was an important commodity and many of the people involved in the G.A.A. would not have had the means to spare land for games. People worked twelve hours, seven days a week and little time would have been available for sports. 10 Suitable flat fields were rare and also very useful for farming. Farmers were known to use the threat of a shotgun as a deterrent in guarding their fields from games11. Sport in the nineteenth century was seen as a pursuit of gentlemen who could follow the rules and adhere to fair play. The G.A.A. hoped to undermine the class distinction in sport.12
Acquisition and Development, a slow start. Gaelic Games have an incredibly long history compared to many sports, yet the G.A.A. only began as an organisation in 1884. In the years after its founding, as the organisation grew, it made the acquisition of grounds an important focus in its goals and these venues became important in Irish life. Hurling has an ancient history going right back into Celtic Folklore and while Gaelic Football is not considered nearly as old it is first recorded in the 1527 Statutes of Galway7. Despite such a long history, the G.A.A. grounds, as they now exist, do not have nearly as long a history. There are many reasons for this situation but it was due primarily to the lack of an overall organisation to represent these games.
A notable challenge for a G.A.A. pitch, or the grounds which they evolve into, is their large size, 80-90m wide and 130-145m long. These significant patches of land often need to be supplemented by secondary training pitches and in the case of county grounds, car parks, changing facilities, stands and the administrative offices of the counties.
The lack of organisation was caused by many factors including the fact the games were not favoured by the British Establishment which is equally significant to the difficulty in communication and a lack of infrastructure nationally to organise such games. The rules were not standard and pitch sizes varied immensely with often twice as many players on a pitch half the modern size. 8 This meant that older venues were not adequate when the pitches became standard and have, for the most part, not survived to the present day. Some such as Fraher Field from 1885 along with Parnell Park and Semple Stadium from 1910 have continued to this day, because their original circumstances adjacent to fields or in parkland, allowed for expansion.
The G.A.A. was stable enough in 1913 with finances and organisation to start developing a main national stadium in Dublin13. They purchased a Jones Road site which had previously held athletic events, for ÂŁ3,500 from GAA supporter and businessman Frank Dineen and renamed it Croke Park.14 The advent of enclosed pitches where admission could be charged would provide a crucial source of income for the G.A.A. Mike Cronin, Sport and nationalism in Ireland- Gaelic Games, Soccer and Irish Identity since 1884 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999) p.7 10 John Cassidy, Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games: A History of C.I.E G.A.A. Clubs (Dublin: Original Writing Ltd, 2009), p1 11 Breandan O hEither, Over the Bar: A personal relationship with the G.A.A. A personal relationship, , (Cork, The Collins Press, 1984), p10 12 John Cassidy, Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games: A History of C.I.E G.A.A. Clubs (Dublin: Original Writing Ltd, 2009), 1 13 60 Glorious Years 1886-1946: The Authentic Story Of the G.A.A , (Dublin, The Parkside. Press Limited)p45 14 John Cassidy, Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games: A History of C.I.E G.A.A. Clubs (Dublin: Original Writing Ltd, 2009), p5 9
The Irish peopleâ€™s attachment to the land also played its role in the placement and development of pitches. Jobs in cities were not created as they were in Jack Mahon, A History of Gaelic Football (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan Ltd., 2001), p1 John Cassidy, Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games: A History of C.I.E G.A.A. Clubs (Dublin: Original Writing Ltd, 2009),p1-2 7 8
The G.A.A. acquired grounds in many ways but even by the time that Croke Park was established, when the G.A.A. was nearly thirty years old, it had experienced an astronomical rise with its appeal to the masses and special place as a catalyst in the revival of Irish Culture. When the Irish Republican Brotherhood (Fenian) took leadership positions in the G.A.A., seeing the young athletes in the G.A.A. as a source of rebels15 thus making it a very divisive organisation, it experienced a fall followed by a slow steady rise as politics became less of a factor later on.16 This stability, a clarification of game rules along with a growing tradition of spectators going to watch games led to a period when many of the stadia were built.
Kerry V Clare, 1949, Cusack Park Ennis, (Seamus Oâ€™Reilly, Clare G.A.A in Old Photographs, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 2004, p25)
Mike Cronin, Paul Duncan, Paul Rouse, The GAA county by county, (Cork the Collins Press, 2011), p81 16 Cormac Moore, The G.A.A. v Douglas Hyde, (Cork, the Collins Press, 2012)p16, 15
The Development Era, 1926- 1937. Many of the grounds came into existence in a period after the struggle for independence and subsequent civil war. The G.A.A. entered a more successful period in the late 1920s in terms of support and financial income. With this the G.A.A. developed a tradition of investing its future in bricks, mortar, seats, and pitches.17 The golden era lasted until World War II and the economic and material difficulties it brought to Ireland. The main reason for this golden era was an increased level of organisation within the G.A.A. itself. The end of civil unrest brought about a new strength in the organisation, with young men no longer fighting they could devote more time to sport. The end of struggles meant that the G.A.A. could now, also, have a much more public face and no longer drew Government suspicions for links to Republican organisations. These facts only apply to the Free State. In the Northern six counties, the G.A.A. would continue a life under suspicion from authorities. With half of the current grounds built in the late twenties and thirties, it was an era which shaped the concept of a county ground. Increased revenue at games occurred due to peace as well as the reversal of the G.A.A. from being a subversive organisation to being one of the proud institutions of a nascent Free State18. Attendance records were broken at this point and earnings grew for the central council.19 Towns gained a Gaelic institution as British institutions withdrew, thus changing the dynamic of towns. In this period the tradition of attending matches strongly started to take modern roots20 and this would manifest itself in the construction of stadia for which this era helped to define the role of the county ground.
Foley and Denis Walsh, â€œGrounds Control,â€? The Sunday Times Sport p8, January 13 2013 18 Donal McAnallen, Interview, March 22 2013 19 Eoghan Corry, A History Of Gaelic Football, (Dublin, Gill &MacMillan, 2009) p130-150 20 Breandan O hEither, Over the Bar: A personal relationship with the G.A.A., p10
Timeline of Stadia Opening Year, (author)
The Influence of Rules
Rule 42, now Rule 5.1
The development of county grounds was helped by taking advantages of changes in legislation that suited the G.A.A. Internal rules of the G.A.A. would also have an effect on how the county grounds came to be.
Rule 42 is the G.A.A.’s policy in not allowing use of their facilities for other field sports, greyhound and horse racing.24 This results in stadia being situated near similar facilities while logic suggests they could be better shared. Rule 27
The Irish Land Commission
Until 1971 the G.A.A. had a ban on its members attending what were referred to as foreign sports such as rugby or soccer. The punishment for those members who attended such games was usually a lengthy suspension from any participation in the G.A.A. including attending games. In one of the greatest controversies of the G.A.A., Douglas Hyde, President of Ireland was removed as a patron of the organisation after attending an International soccer game. This rule was to ensure the sporting interest of the Irish Public was devoted to the G.A.A.25
The Irish Land Commission was set up in 1881.21 Its main business became that of overseeing the transfer of the freehold of land from the landlords to the tenants. The GAA was founded three years later in 1884 and members such as Michael Davitt had a hand in both. The Wyndham Land Act of 1903 allowed Irish farmers to obtain long term Government Loans, this led to landlords selling and leaving the country22. The onset of independence resulted in a national moral and legal shift, from a British government supportive of landowners to a new Free State sympathetic to the ordinary man. In 1923 after the founding of the Free State, the new nation became more aggressive against landlords with legislation allowing compulsory purchase of lands from landlords. 23 The Land Commission, the rise of the G.A.A and the fall of the landlords in Ireland occurred at the same time; the G.A.A. has a strong nationalist identity in terms of its support for the Irish People and their struggle for Independence. Its rise came in the face of the withdrawal of the British, with much of the land that became available having history connected to institutions of the British presence in Ireland. These include former army Barracks, Landowner Estates and Workhouses.
Rule 21 This rule banned members of British Security forces from participation in Gaelic games. It was abolished in 2001 after one hundred years of existence. The removal of this rule was in parallel with the peace process in Northern Ireland and the thawing of relations between British authorities and the G.A.A. This rule is an example of the historical problems the G.A.A. had with the authorities in all of Ireland until 1921 and then in the six counties in the North afterwards. Indeed even though three quarters of the counties voted to get rid of this ban in 2001, five out of the six Northern Counties wished to keep it.26. Rules like these which are to do with politics not sport, illustrate the widespread impact which the G.A.A. has in Irish culture
Tommy Flynn ‘The G.A.A. and the Land Commission, a study of the relationship and the situation between these two institutions from 1884 until the present day’. , 22 Clane G.A.A., a century A history of the club and the people,(Clane, G.A.A. 1987)p13 23 Tommy Flynn ‘The G.A.A. and the Land Commission, a study of the relationship and the situation between these two institutions from 1884 until the present day’. , 21
Official Guide Part 1(Dublin, G.A.A , 2012) p61 Cormac Moore, The G.A.A. v Douglas Hyde, (Cork, the Collins Press, 2012), back cover 26100-year GAA ban lifted on security forces, The Guardian Accessed February 9 2013 www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/nov/18/uk.henrymcdonald 25
Grounds Schemes, Leinster Pound for Pound and Parks Committee The golden era of ground acquisition, as previously described, was also driven by incentives. The first national grounds scheme was put in place in 1927 by Seán McCarthy27, following this, the Leinster Central Council, which controls most of the finances from Leinster, made an offer to the counties of matching an investment by those counties into their own county ground with an equal amount. It was hoped these venues would provide constant income to the organisation. Martin O’Neill, the Leinster secretary from 1927- 1970,28 implemented this policy in his early years in his post and formalised the earlier tendency to invest surplus revenue in grounds.29Padraig Ó Caoimh, who was general secretary of the G.A.A. from 1929 to 1964, helped in 1957 to create a Parks Committee to form a unified plan for the development of grounds. From this Parks Committee came the ‘Grounds Plan’ which saw grounds being purchased and refurbished with grants from the Central Council. This was done on a phased basis from top to bottom. It started with the major provincial grounds, then county grounds and finally clubs.30 Along with the aforementioned G.A.A. authority grants traditional sources of finance for G.A.A. grounds have been the Lotto, G.A.A. members and at times Government funds. The majority of investment and income of the thirty three grounds is pooled in the central or provincial councils, which means bigger schemes are financed with a shared risk and without loans. 31 These schemes meant the G.A.A had the means to purchase land once suitable sites were identified.
Eoghan Corry, The History of Gaelic Football, (Dublin, Gill&McMillan, 2009) p215 60 Glorious Years 1886-1946: The Authentic Story Of the G.A.A. , (Dublin, The Parkside. Press Limited) p28 29 Ibid p28 30 Padraig O’Caoimh, G.A.A., accessed March 12 2013, www.crokepark.ie/gaa-museum/gaa-archive/gaa-museum-irish-times-articles/padraig-ocaoimh,-general-secretary-of-the-gaa,-19 31 Seamus Aldrige, Interview, March 29 2013 27 28
County Grounds of Leinster and Foundation Dates,. (author)
Where the G.A.A. situated the Grounds.
Semple Stadium is located in Thurles because the importance of the town in the foundation of the G.A.A. itself. Killarney and Dungarvan while selected here as county grounds are actually both sharing the title in Kerry and Waterford respectively with Tralee and Waterford City which are the county towns. At present there are plans in Louth to switch venue from Drogheda to Dundalk in collaboration with the development of Dundalk Institute of Technology.34 This is indicative the G.A.A.â€™s method in acquisition of stadia, taking advantage of opportunities which are presented to them.
Stadia Location Criteria Some counties still have more than one county ground and many more have had multiple venues in the past. Often venues were chosen at the one major town in a county which would be the natural location of the county ground, such as Portlaoise in Laois, which is by far the largest town in the county. Counties in the long run for practical and financial reasons have generally focused their investments on one particular ground as a showpiece for the county. This has been due to incentives, infrastructure, population and location in the county, be it geographical or in a G.A.A. heartland.
Multiple access routes into the grounds from the whole county are a crucial factor in the placement of the grounds meaning easy access to games, the main town of a county or a centrally located town offer this condition.35
County towns are usually the largest towns in a county and are where the administration of the county is conducted. County councils have their seat in county towns, and like county grounds, each county has a county town, which like the stadia for functional reasons are usually centrally located in the county. In general county grounds are situated in county towns. Exceptions to this rule are not uncommon however and include towns such as Clones, Ballybofey, Newbridge, Thurles, Killarney and Dungarvan. These exceptions generally have clear explanations. The first three represent towns at the geographical centres, with Clones being at the centre of the province as opposed to the county as Clones is the primary venue for the province of Ulster. Clones was also previously at the junction of two railroads. The fact that Clones is in the south of Ireland meant Ulster G.A.A. could pay taxes in the Republic as opposed to the north where they had at the time issues with the Government. 32 Clones Town either out of goodwill or more likely because the business the crowds brought did not ask the G.A.A. to pay rates on the land. 33 Clones is, also, essentially a natural stadium with a fall in the ground in the hills just outside the town making a natural amphitheatre. 32 33
Ulster county grounds, the big circle is Clones, dotted line is the border. (Author) Louth looks set to get a new state of the art GAA county stadium, Dundalk Democrat, Accessed January 26 2013, www.dundalkdemocrat.ie/news/local/louth-looks-set-to-get-anew-state-of-the-art-gaa-county-stadium-1-4246996 35 Seamus Aldrige, Interview, March 29 2013 34
Donal McAnallen, Interview, March 22 2013 ibid 13
Use of Railway System
At one point all the towns which have county grounds had rail access with many at key junctions. Very few grounds today lack railway access, Fraher Field, Oâ€™Byrne Park, MacCumhail Park, Breffni Park, Brewster Park, Healy Park, and St. Tiernachâ€™s Park are the only grounds without a rail connection. Except for the first two, all are located in Ulster which has a significantly reduced rail network.
Railway systems have a strong connection to grounds, forming an essential part of transport to the games, with a long tradition of people arriving to games by train. Thus grounds have gained significance on the back of good rail access36. For example Kildare played when attendance milestones of 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, and 50,000 were achieved, with rail access between Kildare and Dublin significant in explaining such remarkable numbers, and thiws helped generate beneficial financial gains. The G.A.A. interprovincial series is known as the Railway Cup and the G.A.A. had such a reliance on the rail system that it even invested in it to exert influence and to secure trains for teams and spectators.37 To this day Iarnrod Eireann, the national rail system, will supply special services on match days.38
The development of the railroad in Ireland occurred primarily in the middle of the nineteenth century. Development of the county grounds occurred however around the middle of the twentieth century, leaving a century of a gap between the developments of two significant infrastructures in towns. The location of stadia is often in leftover land in the town, but because of rapid development around the railway stations in these 100 years, the leftover land suited to stadia was usually not situated near the station. The economic income of a county ground and the benefit of the railway has often acted as a catalyst for further growth in these towns. Spectators at county grounds represent a very important source of income for the G.A.A. Rail connection, especially in the beginning of the G.A.A., before large scale car ownership and motorways, was vital in bringing great numbers of people to games.
Matches were advertised with a train timetable. (Mike Cronin, Paul Duncan, Paul Rouse, The GAA county by county, the Collins Press, 2011 Cork ,p232 ,p155)
Eoghan Corry, Kildare G.A.A. a centenary history, (Newbridge, Publisher- Kildare County G.A.A.1984) ,p334 37 Mike Cronin, Paul Duncan, Paul Rouse, The GAA county by county, the Collins Press, 2011 Cork) ,p81 38 GAA fixture this St. Patricks Day, Irish Rail, accessed March 29 2013, www.irishrail.ie/cat_news.jsp?i=4779&p=116&n=237 36
Current County Grounds on the 1906 railway system, (Viceregal Commision) 15
Where did the G.A.A. get the land? A general rule is that pitches are built on land which had no previous building. They have either developed in fields at the edge or outside of towns, or in central town locations which were unsuitable for building, or which were kept free for a previous purpose such as a barracks courtyard, a town park, or an agricultural show grounds . As political, legal, and economic circumstances changed, land often became available and an opportunistic G.A.A. was ready to step in to purchase land suitable for the grounds
The current pitch of Pearse Park in Longford relation the original barracks, (1837 O.S. Maps)
Agricultural Societies Agricultural Societies represented another source of grounds for the G.A.A. such as in Navan and Cork. Restrictions these societies placed on the G.A.A around usage in leasing agreements for games helped develop the G.A.A.s policy of trying to own grounds so as to be in total control. 39
Semple Stadium, Thurles, Fields on the edge of town offer the space required. (OS. Maps 1837)
Barracks and withdrawing institutions The old institutional buildings and sites of the withdrawing British may represent a spiritual or political victory to the G.A.A, but this is not the reason these sites became county grounds. They became county grounds because of their availability in great number after the establishment of the Free State and the fact they were often in good locations in towns. Similar requirements for buildings, such as army barracks, met the criteria needed for G.A.A. grounds. They had good road and rail access, and often barracks were situated in the main town in a county suitable to the locating of G.A.A. county grounds. Like many places where the G.A.A. developed grounds, barracks had elements of enclosure needed for financially viable grounds.
Navanâ€™s Pairc Tailteann is located where the Meath Agriculture Show took place. (O.S Maps 1837)
Donal McAnallen, Interview, March 22 1013
Community facilities, grounds, workhouses and hospitals
Grounds such as Hyde Park in Roscommon, Pairc Esler in Newry, Celtic Park in Derry and Markievicz Park in Sligo adjoin graveyards. In these arrangements the land is on the outskirts of town but also on a main road. This would have been land undeveloped previously but in useful locations in relation to the town and the county, within walking distance of the town but avoiding the traffic. As a result of these side by side facilities car parks can be shared, raising the question as to whether these essentially civic facilities were acquired together. Dr. Cullen Park and Drogheda Park follow a similar logic with other sports facilities occupying adjoining land in an area on the edge of town on the main access roads.
In the same way, the British rolled out barracks and workhouses across the country in major towns, and the Churches had Cathedrals in strategic locations to act as a marker, the G.A.A. rolled out their stadia on a national scale in major towns. There is also a connection between workhouses and hospitals in Ireland. Once workhouses became obsolete with changing economic, political and social situations these grounds were to become available for re-use by hospitals.41 Workhouses, hospitals and county grounds all need large amounts of land and are situated to serve large population centres. These two factors mean that these types of facilities, along with schools and other similar facilities, are located adjacently in developing parts of towns with lots of available land.
The Catholic Church and the G.A.A. have had over time strong connections, the adjacent land for of graveyards and grounds being one, but also G.A.A. pitches were often on land owned previously by the church40. Along with a need for car parks, graveyards and stadia share a periodic intensity of use on certain occasions such as match days and funerals. At these times the crowds can be large enough to shut down a town, though only for a short period while for the rest of the year have very little use.
Pรกirc Tailteann, Navan, Meath with schools,(1,3) and Navan hospital (2)formerly workhouse. (2013 O.S. Maps) Hyde Park is built beside a Graveyard (2013 O.S. Maps) Poor Law Unions in Ireland, Workhouse.org.uk , accessed April 11 2013 (ww.workhouses.org.uk/Ireland/UnionsIreland.shtml) 41 40
Donal McAnallen, Interview 17
Tullamore’s O’Connor Park location is influenced by the canal. As the canal passed to the north of Tullamore it confined the town’s development to the south of the Canal. This leaves land close to the centre of town undeveloped which in future years became more accessible and suitable as a venue.
Rivers and Waterways The G.A.A. acquired land in many ways and from many sources. Many grounds are built near rivers at points vulnerable to flooding and because of this no previous building had occurred. Cork, Newbridge, Enniskillen, Newry, Ennis and Dungarvan42 are all are situated in areas where flooding can occur. Owing to the fact that many Irish towns developed at bridging points on rivers, many of the grounds are built in the vicinity of rivers. Grounds sited at river bends are prone to flooding in winter as the water table rises, however in summer, when the games are mostly played, the land is dry, flat and perfectly suitable for a G.A.A pitch. MacCumhail Park in Ballybofey is a perfect example of where the pitch is built in flooding zones which enjoys a location close to the town centre which was otherwise unsuited to building but good for stadia in low land with higher land often surrounding Newry’s Shamrock Park benefits from a river which has been straightened, and like Cork’s Páirc Ui Chaoimh, is in a similar riverside location surrounded by an urban park. Reclaimed land such as these are developed in a similar manner through the making of earth mounds, which is commonplace for the G.A.A. venues. The building up of earth to make a terrace doubles as a flood barrier for the towns.
Tullamore’s O’Connor Park in Relation to Canal (1837 O.S. Map)
Pairc Esler, Newry (Author)
MacCumhail Park, Ballybofey, Donegal G.A.A. situated at the bend of a river (1837 O.S. Map)
Flood maps, accessed January 11 2013, www.floodmaps.ie/ 18
The Vernacular Development
This piece-meal development saw most of these mounds later concreted over44 to make standing terraces, or in some cases installed with seating. Both, nonetheless, are simpler engineering than columns and beams and thus cheaper. This act of terracing of uneven land is the vernacular way of making these grounds. Croke Parkâ€™s Hill 16 is an example of a terrace created on an artificial mound45 built from rubble in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter rising
How they came to be. A slow development, Accretion It is worth noting that the stadia are nearly all a result of years of additions and innovations rather than a resolved planned design from a singular architect.43 Mounds as stands, the natural stadium From analysis of the stadia it can be ascertained that most of the stadia developed through a process of development which stretched over decades. They typically have either mounds built around the edges to form the arena or in the initial levelling of the pitch are constructed in such a way to make use of the drop to create a slope.
St. Tiernachâ€™s Park Clones (author)
This slope or mound as well as forming a terrace for viewing creates a barrier around the field, helping the G.A.A. to charge entry to a venue. Building on natural mounds accounts for the fact that many terraces are not symmetrical, or off centre, as the grounds make use of what is natural, which while it can be adapted to a terrace, or stand, is still a natural feature.
1. Rail line outside Newbridge (1972 O.S Maps) 2. PĂĄirc Tailteann, Navan (1954 O.S Maps) This comparative shows how the two infrastructures share a method of creating the necessary flat surface.
Markievicz Park, Sligo, the irregular stand in elevation is built on a mound (author) John Joe Brosnan /Diarmuid O Murchadha Cork GAA a history 1886-1986 p92 History, Croke Park, Accessed April 8 2013, http://www.crokepark.ie/About/History
44 44 43 43
John Joe Brosnan /Diarmuid O Murchadha Cork GAA a history 1886-1986 p228
Often the grounds are very intelligently placed in natural depressions. The positioning of many of the pitches and ground work done to level and create four sided arenas in low lying positions results in the grounds having less visible prominence in their urban locations. This is a positive point as some of the grounds, have quite limited use, especially in terms of filling the stands. That is to say that while the pitches may be used regularly for underage and schools games, very important games which have large crowds may not number more than ten a year for any county. The dynamic of the crowd on these occasions, must be conversely considered with the fact that most of the time this facility, which occupies considerable space in the town is usually dormant like a volcano ready to explode on match day.46 Relatively small scale as many of these stadia are means that the creation of these mounds is feasible with relatively standard construction methods and farm machinery. In many of the stadia a main stand will sit on top of the mounds to add capacity and coverage to otherwise basic facilities.
View of Oâ€™Moore Park Portlaoise 2000 before renovation
While G.A.A. stadia might not have great scale or height, this does not mean that they have small capacities. The G.A.A. pitch, measuring up to 90m x 145m is one of the largest playing surfaces of any sport. This extra perimeter eases difficulties in the procurement of higher capacities. Croke Park for example is one of the largest stadia in the world at 82,500 capacity and while no one argues the massive importance of the G.A.A. in Ireland, a globally more important event such as the Olympic basketball final could only fit 12,000 spectators47. . The large size of the G.A.A. grounds in conjunction with the double function of terraces as a spectator platform and enclosure has meant that mounds are to be seen in most G.A.A. grounds.
(Laois G.A.A. Website, accessed Jan 15 2013, www.laoisgaa.utvinternet.ie/omoorepark.htm)
The agricultural style fieldworks have already been touched upon. The creation and history of the G.A.A. has always had a very close farming connection. This also applies to the buildings on the grounds. The general construction skills in Ireland in the early part of the twentieth century would have had more expertise in agricultural building than anything else. Construction and farming are two industries associated with Irish Labour whether at home or abroad. Rain is also associated with Ireland and like hay and cattle, spectators need large spaces covered from the rain in the form of farm-like barns, which are to be seen on many of the stands of the county grounds. The same steel framework covered by galvanised sheeting is used and this form, especially when seen from the closed outside, resembles very much a farm construction. Places such as Aughrim, amongst many others, enjoy this aesthetic.
Elias Cannetti, Crowds and Power (London, Penguin Books, 1992), â€œLondon 2012 basketballâ€™ Wilkinson Eyre, accessed 26/01/13 16.16.http://www.wilkinsoneyre.com/projects/london-2012-basketballarena.aspx?category=sport-and-leisure 46 47
One Stand/One Covered Capacity is an important theme in the architecture of these stadia. On a bright sunny championship day in July, the grounds are full and the atmosphere is truly magical. Conversely, in a league game on a freezing wet February day a fraction of the capacity will be in attendance. With this usage the G.A.A. have developed a vernacular style which means one stand will be covered and have superior facilities and vantage points to the other spectator areas, with the uncovered areas only being used on a couple of occasions a year. The uncovered area, often mounds, in times of lesser use function primarily as enclosures. This style of having different types of stands is well suited to the G.A.As piecemeal development where facilities are gradually built.
Gaelic Grounds Limerick, (Gaelic Grounds Redevelopment, accessed march 15 2013, www.bmcc.ie/project/gaelic-grounds-redevelopment-limerick/)
Access/ Use of towns
Hidden / Edge
Previously explained is why none of the grounds are very close to the railways. The fact that this occurs is not a bad thing. In fact it is normal for stadia to be a minimum distance from the public transport which helps ensure a big crowd disperses before arriving at the train station or does not arrive at the stadium entrances all at once. Grounds require stands for crowds, turnstiles for crowds but also space for crowds. The post match exit scramble needs to be resolved before everybody gets to the train. The train stations are often at least ten minutes walk or one kilometre from the ground allowing crowd dispersal possibly through the town helping business. In Northern grounds which have developed later, after much of the railroads have been disbanded, there is not such a strong tradition of arriving to games by train. 48
With the G.A.A. county grounds often located at the edge of towns, or in leftover land, they have a strange relationship to the rest of town. Many are not so prominent in towns as their size would suggest, with little road frontage and often hidden behind rows of terraced housing or back from the street with a car park in place at the front of the pitch. The original fields would not have been located to have a relationship with the urban conditions of a town and the noise and hustle of the games would have been kept back from the street. New stadia for other sports are often imposing on the side of roads and with elaborate facades to give an impression of greatness. G.A.A. county grounds share a rural development with style facilities such as farms, with land acquired firstly and piece by piece development ensuring a functional outcome if not a peculiar one. Many of the grounds have secondary pitches, car parks and other associated facilities. The pitch and the stands, even at a minimum, will occupy quite a large amount of space in a town. Despite the large size, grounds such as Ennis and Newbridge are quite central, while others such as Oâ€™Moore Park, Parnell Park and Casement Park are a distance from the centre of the town. A general rule is that the pitches are located where no previous building stood although many occur in land which had previous function such as agricultural showgrounds, parks or as the practice grounds of barracks.. Many of the pitches are built somewhat back from the street or roads. This space allows grounds to expand capacity as well as facility in response to higher modern demand. The space also provides access as a threshold for the large crowds between town and arena.
Cusack Park Mullingar in relation to train station. (2013 O.S Maps)
Donal McAnallen, Interview
Bicycle, Bus, Cars and Pedestrians
Match day /Non Match day
Most of the stadia have some car parking facilities attached, and some have generous amounts of parking, but often on big match day parking spaces are filled quickly, and cars are left at the side of the road or on pavements, sometimes fields become car parks. Ordinarily organised towns lose their normal feel.
‘Our hopes are pinned on the sport’s audience. Our glance slides, let’s not attempt to hide it, to these gigantic cement pots filled with 15,000 people of every class and facial cast, the cleverest and fairest audience in the world.’50 A remarkable feature of these stadia is that for much of the year they are completely unused, yet on match days bring lots of colour and noise changing the dynamic of the provincial towns and are crucially important to their economies, filling pubs and restaurants. Up to 40,000 people can arrive in Clones on match-day, far greater than the 2,500 who live there bringing a village alive in the summer.
The car parking spaces are part of the addition process of the stadium. It must be remembered that in the early years of stadiums that public transport, walking and cycling were the normal way of getting to and from stadia49. This has changed somewhat with car ownership growth, but arriving via other methods other than cars, still represent an important way of arriving at the stadia. A portion of the grounds would have started at positions outside of the town, but have become part of the town as the town expanded especially within suburban housing. Few of the stadia are on main thoroughfares, while availability of land is an obvious reason, large crowds can also present difficulties in town centres.
Dublin Fans joining together outside a pub In Drumcondra before a game. (Dubs fans celebrate ,Irish Independent, Accessed February 7 2013 http://photos.independent.ie/gallery/Dubs_fans_celebrate_/slideshow/Dubs%27_fans_cele brate/02Ua0ylaAC9b9)
Páirc Sean MacDiamuida, Carrick-on-Shannon. Car park in orange, note development around the park formerly outside the town. (2013 O.S. Maps)
Seamus Aldrige, Interview 23
Elias Cannetti, (London, Penguin Books, 1992), Crowds and Power, 1984
What Now? Recent Developments Like many institutions in Ireland the Celtic Tiger made the G.A.A. more ambitious in their investment and as a consequence has left some counties in financial difficulties. Proposals to sell grounds in their valuable town centre locations to developers, who would in turn build state of the art stadiums on other sites were mooted at the time but were not brought to build stage.51 The 2011 Slattery Report has cut capacities in many grounds and has seriously questioned the safety standards in some of the grounds. Along with higher safety and access requirements for stadia; spectators, players and media demand higher standard facilities than would have been the case when the stadia were first envisaged. 52 What might happen in the future? In the past there was a pyramid structure with Croke Park as the national stadium, four provinces with four main stadia and then 32 county stadia. Potentially, what will happen in an age where the running cost and level of facilities is higher is that some stadia will be strategically improved while others will face cut capacities and will be unsuitable for big games. The constant changing of policy and ambitions of different counties, not always willing to compromise, means however an overall structured plan is unlikely and construction will continue at case by case basis.53
Kildare, RTE, accessed January 1 2013, www.rte.ie/sport/gaa/2006/1129/211807-kildare/ Michael Foley and Denis Walsh, â€œGrounds Control,â€? The Sunday Times Sport p8, January 13 2013, 53 Donal Mc Anallen, Interview 51 52
Case Study 1. Páirc Ui Chaoimh, Cork GAA
The untypical planned approach
In summer 1898 Cork G.A.A. enclosed a plot of ground in the City Park on the banks of the river Lee 54 with William Fleming contracted for the work. While good crowds turned up, the facilities could not cope and many fans got in for free climbing fences and breaking down barriers. By the end of the year the facilities were in ruins.55 The idea was repeated the next year and worked successfully until hurling and football games against Limerick in August when large crowds broke down the hoardings. The mishaps meant that Cork moved games to Turners Cross for a few years.56
Cork’s Stadium is unique in the fact it stems from a singular design. The uniform concrete stands rising high in the City Park in Cork contrast with earthen mounds and layers of construction in the typical county ground.
After two previous disastrous attempts in the park it wasn’t until late 1902 that a new private company The Cork Athletic Grounds Committee Ltd. was tasked with providing an arena in the park, to cater for all sports. It was financed by £30 from the county, and subscriptions, with the stadium intended to be run on a commercial basis. A lease was drawn between the Cork Agricultural Society, the Corporation and Cork Board treasurer John Fitzgerald. The private company received 1/3 of net takings, but the provision of an enclosed ground, and became solely G.A.A. in 1906, with turnstiles ensuring Cork G.A.A. finances were very healthy. 57In 1935 Cork Athletic grounds had its drainage scheme and the banking enclosure extended. A new entrance with eighteen turnstiles and three large gates was built. A covered stand to accommodate 700 people was erected. The two ends were improved and paling was moved to extend the pitch58
(No Big Stadium Worries for Cork, The Irish Examiner, Accessed February 2 2013, www.irishexaminer.com/sport/gaa/mccloy-no-big-stadium-worries-for-cork-178926.html)
Mike Cronin, Paul Duncan, Paul Rouse, (The GAA county by county, the Collins Press, 2011 Cork), p80 55 John Joe Brosnan /Diarmuid O Murchadha Cork GAA a history 1886-1986 p36 56 ibidp37 57 ibid ,p81 58 ibid p99 54
Pairc ui Chaoimh in relation to city and train station(red dot), (O.S. Maps 2013)
The venue however is now nearly forty years old and no longer of a modern standard. The dressing rooms and facilities are bemoaned by players66
From the early 50’s the Athletic Grounds needed improvement. Cork however invested in other sites with some 54 acres purchased in the Model Farm area with the intention of developing a new stadium to replace the Cork Athletic grounds. Planning and other restrictions however made this site unworkable and part of the land was sold along with other assets to help finance the new stadium.59 In 1973 at the county convention it was announced that a new stadium would be built on the site of Cork Athletic Grounds.60 Páirc Ui Chaoimh would be named after Padraig O'Caoimh, General Secretary of the GAA, 1929-1964 61 and is unique in G.A.A. county stadia because it was designed fully and fully replaced the Cork Athletic Ground.62 After the years of planning and fund raising work got under way in April 1974 and was complete June 6th 1976.63 The stadium has a capacity in excess of 50,000 including seating for 20,000. In addition it contained office, bars and catering facilities. Initially, it was costed at £985,000 but reached £1,700,000 with inflation and modifications. Church and state figures were present as G.A.A President Conchubar O’ Murchu, who was key in the stadium planning and fundraising, opened the stadium64 for the1976 Munster final. An extra 10,000 people had got in for free due to security lapses at the new stadium. .65
Current Ground Capacity (Pairc ui Chaoimh Redevelopment’, StwArchitects Blogspot, Accessed March 2 2013, http://stwarchitects.blogspot.ie/2012/01/pairc-ui-chaoimh-redevelopment-of.html)
ibid p288 ibid1986 p202 61‘Páirc Ui Chaoimh’, Cork Gaa Website, accessed March 11 2013, www.gaacork.ie/contentPage/4437/pairc_ui_chaoimh 62 John Joe Brosnan /Diarmuid O Murchadha Cork GAA a history 1886-1986 p228 63 ibid P228 64 ibid p228 65 Michael Moynihan, Rebels Cork G.A.A. Since 1950, (Dublin, Gill and Macmillan Ltd. 2010),p67 59 60
‘Corbett Horror at Páirc Ui Chaoimh ‘Kip’’,Irish Examiner, October 25, 2012 www.irishexaminer.com/sport/gaa/corbett-horror-at-pairc-ui-chaoimh-kip-211911.html 66
Park Plans (Save Marina Park . accessed March 6 2013, savemarinapark.com/index.php/tag/pairc-uichaoimh/)
Existing tunnels (Pairc Ui Chaoimh,accessed, Patrick Dineen, Photoblog, accessed March 11 2013, www.photoblog.ie/tag/sport/page/2/)
Plans were made in 2012 by Walsh & Partners Enginneers, Scott Tallon Walker, Architects together with Venhoeven as Landscape Architects for the 100 acre Marina Park to restore the stadium to one of the best grounds in the country in a €67 million project ‘’worthy of Ireland’s second city’’. 67The Stadium will have a games capacity of 45,000. 68
The plan to redevelop Páirc Ui Chaoimh has drawn criticism at two major points, one the location in the city, a residential zone with limited access and parking. The second is that Munster already has 3 stadia at over 40,000 in Fitzgerald Stadium, Semple Stadium and The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick70 and that such a large redevelopment is unnecessary. If plans do go ahead it will bring the stadium back in line with the accretion method typical of stadia, ever adapting for use.
The plan will modernise the stadium, roofing two stands, install high standard dressing rooms and warm up areas as well as an extra training pitch and medical facilities; facilities for catering and media will be also incorporated, while threshold will be reconfigured and the existing tunnels of circulation will be removed. 69
‘Pairc Ui Chaoimh Redevelopment Jobs’, G.A.A., Accessed march2 2013, www.gaa.ie/gaa-news-and-videos/daily-news/1/3108120802-pairc-ui-chaoimhredevelopment-jobs-boost/ 68 ibid 69 ‘Pairc Ui Chaoimh Redevelopment Jobs’, G.A.A., Accessed march2 2013, http://www.gaa.ie/gaa-news-and-videos/daily-news/1/3108120802-pairc-ui-chaoimhredevelopment-jobs-boost/ 67
Case Study 2, St. Conleths Park, Kildare G.A.A.
The typical accretion
Kildare has several towns of similar size with county games over the years being played in Clane, Athy and Naas71 . Since the 1920s Newbridge72 with good rail links, easy access to all parts of the county and a strong G.A.A. heritage has been the county ground.73 Newbridge was a garrison town, the centre piece of the town changing from a British Barracks to a Gaelic sports fields hold symbolism in the formative years of the Irish Free State.74.In 1924 the first steps were made to acquire the old British army barracks in Newbridge. It took three years of struggles with the Board of Works to get started. In May 1930 Newbridge G.A.A. field opened 160yrds by 90yrds with a railing outside of 170 yrds x 90 yrds. Father Owen Brennan declared opening the pitch;75
St. Conleth’s Park represents a year by year approach typical of the G.A.A. Starting with a pitch which could be enclosed, in this case by way of an architecture inherited from a British army barracks, has gradually evolved over years to meet needs, with an end result unrecognisable from its beginnings, with traces of the barracks in Newbridge unapparent except for its nickname ‘the Barracks’
‘The G.A.A. is getting stronger and stronger year by year and is one of the chief bulwarks against Anglicisation at present’
The Barracks in Newbridge, the field in the foregeound would become the pitch. (Newbridge Historical Society) Clane G.A.A., a century A history of the club and the people,p22 Eoghan Corry, Kildare G.A.A. a centenary history, (Newbridge Publisher- Kildare County G.A.A,1984),p7 73 Seamus Aldrige, Interview 74 Mike Cronin, Paul Duncan, Paul Rouse, (The GAA County by County, Cork, the Collins Press 2011),p189 75 Eoghan Corry, Kildare G.A.A. a centenary history, (G.A.A.1984), p335 71 71 72
Arial View of Pitch 1965 (Newbridge Historical Society)
Commissioners enabled an entrance to be built in the 50’s with the old entrance arch removed. In 1961 an attendance of 20,000 was recorded. 82 In 1978 a stand the full length of the field was built. While G.A.A. grounds have been built in a piecemeal way, there is often foresight in constructions. This stand, built as a standing terrace was built with step dimensions suitable for seating to be installed at a later date. An unusual feature was that players had to exit through the crowd to the changing rooms, which was resolved in 1984 with a new building containing changing facilities, a presentation podium and county office. 83
St. Bridgets or St. Conleths Park were the two proposed names, one the patron Saint of the county and the latter, which stuck, a saint associated with Newbridge town itself. £400 and a Leinster Council Grant had been raised to finance the project. 76 In 1941 a fence was erected. A fund of £5000 was set up for works with an application to the Board of Works. Works included cutting down of trees between the pitch and levelling the old marriage quarters of the barracks and reducing the height of the wall. 77 Deeds of the grounds were held in the names of T. Lawler and L. Murphy and not trustees of the county. 78The 1945 Official G.A.A. annual reported that the Newbridge venue was under the vigilant eye of Kildare County Secretary T O’Cleirigh and leased from the Board of Works, a big scheme is now working to bring it line with the big venues. 79 Naas was viewed at this point as a possibly better venue while Athy had better facilities hosting All-Ireland finals previously.80 In 1946 plans arose to move goals and to create a stand by an engineer Mr. Domican. Greyhound racing was also run at the venue around the field with the possible reason to generate funds. That year £1,200 was spent on the field with £500 to be spent the next year on seating. In 1947 at a county board meeting a stand was proposed. However, the Leinster Council, who were not happy about the Greyhound Racing wanted their money back. This was rejected by the county board, but the Central Council banned the Greyhounds. In August 1949, £3000 was allocated to build a stand. Works did not start till 1959 due to financial and planning delays. This was an ‘unpretentious galvanised effort, extremely small and unimpressive’81. A land exchange with Newbridge Town
St. Conleths Park, Newbridge. Typical by way of construction over time, mounds, with one main stand, taking advantage of land which became available, centre of county,
accessible by rail, low lying near a river .In 2013 not up to Modern Standards from
standard of cleanliness to poor health and safety and accessibility. (O.S. Maps 1972)
ibidp335 ibid p336 78 ibid p336 79 ibid p336 80 ibidp336 81 ibid p338
ibid, p336 Seamus Aldridge, Interview, March 29 2013
Present Condition Kildare currently do not use the stadium for high profile inter-county championship games.84With little investment in recent years in St. Conleth’s Park has led to deterioration and a standstill in the face of higher safety standards. From safety problems and failure to reach modern standards to simply be badly kept and social problems around the area the stadium is in a poor state.85 The 2011 Slattery report was damning of the conditions of the Newbridge venue and capacity has been reduced to less than 6,200 but planned work on the terraces will bring it back up to 9,000. €3million has been spent on a centre of excellence outside the town 86 This lack of investment in the ground highlights the importance of the G.A.A.’s usual policy of reinvesting income in grounds. Money which should have been spent on the ground to boost further income, was spent elsewhere, and Kildare now have serious problems with income as their main asset is not up to modern standards.87
View of main stand which was built in 1978 (http://www.rte.ie/sport/gaa/2006/1129/211807-kildare/)
Future While it is certain that Kildare need a functional stadium for club finals and low profile county games, it is uncertain if it is necessary or economical for the county to have comparable facilities to other counties which have invested into their stadia such as Laois or Offaly. Any stadium investment would only replicate these facilities and may seldom be used to capacity. Business in Newbridge however suffers due to less high profile games.88 Kildare unhappy over venue’ RTE, Accessed November 12 2013, http://www.rte.ie/sport/gaa/2012/0717/329460-kildare-unhappy-over-venue-but-will-notappeal/ 85 Dirt and Grime at St. Conleths Park, Leinster Leader, Accessed December 2 2013, http://www.leinsterleader.ie/sport/gaelic-games/what-ever-about-the-infrastructure-there-isno-excuse-whatsoever-for-dirt-and-grime-at-st-conleth-s-park-1-4187379 86 Michael Foley and Denis Walsh, “Grounds Control,” 87 Seamus Aldridge, Interview March 29 2013 88‘Newbridge Traders to Contribute’, Leinster Leader, Accesed November 29 2013, http://www.leinsterleader.ie/sport/gaelic-games/secretary-calls-on-newbridge-traders-tocontribute-to-upgrade-of-st-conleth-s-park-1-4562460 84
The main stand St. Conleths was built to the larger dimension on the right anticipating that later seats would be installed. (author)
Case Study 3, Casement Park, Antrim G.A.A.
History of Roger Casement Park
The Northern Example
Antrim originally played in Corrigan Park which was purchased with a loan in 1928, with the loan being paid off in 1941. By 1944 however it was in need of improvement with poor facilities and a pitch which was deemed detrimental to Antrim hurlers95The Corrigan Park reconstruction fund committee was set up in March 1944 and aimed at a £30,000 goal to either reconstruct Corrigan park or provide a new and better stadium.
In dealing with the development of these stadia we must take into account the differences to be considered when referring to the six counties of Northern Ireland. The G.A.A. faced further difficulties there, being seen as a symbol of the nationalist community with little support from authorities89 . This led to a slower development of grounds in the North.
Corrigan Park which had a site of 6.75 acres was deemed too small for the goal of having a G.A.A. stadium in Belfast, only second to Croke Park. In 1946 the present site of 12.5 acres at Andersonstown was purchased. The total cost of Casement Park and 30 acres in Andersonstown was £92,000 but Antrim G.A.A. had money left over with fundraising and subscriptions far exceeding the original £30,000 goal.96The new land in Andersonstown was rough and uneven with places 20 feet below the nearby road level. To make a pitch with terracing was a big assignment for architect Danny McRandal, 97
The G.A.A, which despite openly nationalist in its outlook makes great effort to be non-sectarian and a-political90. However in circumstances which ranged from lack of support from the Unionist Community to murders of G.A.A. members during the troubles91, the G.A.A. county grounds locate themselves in the heart of Nationalist communities which are often the newer parts of towns. The custom of playing matches on Sundays also led to complaints from Protestant Churches of noise disrupting their Sabbath92. Overall it was small push factors from Unionist Communities and pull factors where the G.A.A. acts as a community centre that kept the pitches in the heart of Nationalist communities. The formation of the Youth and Sports of Northern Ireland Council in 1962 meant funding for sports went from Unionist Government Control to a panel made up of former sportsmen who distribute grants based on sporting merits. This helped the G.A.A. in the North, who are now, after years of self-reliance,93 benefiting from the peace dividend and are also receiving funds from The Northern Ireland Sports Council.94
McRandal and the committee felt that the spectators should not have a pitch side line level view and designed for a retaining wall with a sunken walk around the pitch.98A great amount of bulldozing had to be done, to get correct levels. Drains had to be inserted and the whole pitch covered with stones from a local quarry topped by clinkers from the Belfast gas works, the top soil returned and then 1400 tons of Lough Neagh sand spread on top by contractor P.J Walls.99
Foley and Denis Walsh, “Grounds Control,” The Sunday Times Sport p8, January 13 2013, 95 G.A.A. in County Antrim Pamhplet 96 G.A.A. in County Antrim Pamhplet 97 Sean McGettigan Ulster Games Annual 1992-1993 Belfast Howard Publications p6-10 98 ibid 99 ibid
Desmond Fahy, How the G.A.A.survived the troubles,(Dublin,Wolfhound Press, 2001) P13 90‘ Stadium Rally politicised Sport’, B.B.C. accessed January 21 2013, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4790255.stm 91 Desmond Fahy, How the G.A.A.survived the troubles,(Dublin,Wolfhound Press, 2001) P35 92 D. McAnallen, Interview 93 Desmond Fahy, How the G.A.A.survived the troubles,(Dublin,Wolfhound Press, 2001) P13 89
Steel for the stand was obtained from a Lough Erne flying boat company’s hangers whose owners the Eastwoods had informed the G.A.A. of their willingness to sell, and on inspection were bought for £4,500 with structural engineers H.J Clancy and J.G. Campbell redesigning the steel into a frame for the stand. A boundary wall was erected at £20,000, the terracing was put in place and graded, the stand erected with accommodation for 2,200 and 53 rooms below including dressing rooms and showers 100
President of the G.A.A. said at the opening, ‘This opening of this green field today is but the prelude, to the recovery of the fourth green field’ The area around Casement Park was bedecked for the occasion in Tricolour and Vatican flags.104
In early 1953 planning for the stadium was withdrawn,101 but was later reinstated. The minister of finance at the time who was in charge of planning died during this time. It is a matter of debate whether his own personal or party issues with the G.A.A. led to the problems.102
This sort of ceremony is evident to the G.A.A.’s strong connections to the Church and Nationalism. (New Gaelic Stadium for the North ,The Dungannon Observer June 1953)
Originally the park was to be known as Slemish Park105. However, it was changed to Roger Casement Park in the run up to the opening. This pleased the Cardinal and was possibly in response to British allegations that Casement was a homosexual106. The ambition of the stadium was to hold 100,000 spectators when fully complete.107
Image of Main stand in Construction (Official Opening Match Programme)
Roger Casement Park opened in Belfast 14 June 1953. A crowd of between 50,000 and 60,000 was present. 103 After the Cardinal’s address the tricolour was raised and the Irish national anthem played. Mr. M. V. O’Donoghue,
New Gaelic Stadium for the North, The Dungannon Observer June 1953 Beflagged for opening of Ground Sunday Independent June 14 1953 106 Donal McAnallen, Interview 107New Athletic Ground will accomodate 100,000 , Irish Independent June 15 1953, 104
Sean McGettigan Ulster Games Annual 1992-1993 Belfast Howard Publications p6101 Cease Work Order ,Sunday Press, 1953 102 Donal McAnallen, Interview 103 New Athletic Ground will accomodate 100,000, Irish Independent June 15 1953
Future The ground has a capacity of 32,600. The majority of this is terracing. It currently costs £50,000 a year in maintenance with little changed since the fifties.108 Casement Park holds some championship games but Ulster finals are currently held in Clones. Belfast, still currently, has by national standards poor G.A.A. infrastructure at all levels. Like the original plans for Casement Park, there is a repeated desire to have a stadium which meets Belfast’s status as Ireland’s second city. The stadium and the G.A.A. is an important symbol for the Nationalist community in Belfast.
Antrim chairman Jim Murray stated he believes that the stadium is representative of forward progress within Ulster GAA. Mott Mac Donald are the stadium designers and scheduled completion is September 2015,115to be ready for the 2016 Ulster football final.116 The Bulk of the financing is coming from the Northern Irish Government (£62m; €72m) with the G.A.A. central council supplying £15m (€19m) and the Antrim County Board borrowing money to contribute as well.117 While the works take place Antrim will play at smaller G.A.A. venues in the county at greatly reduced capacities.. Once completed the new Casement Park will potentially attract significant GAA events which could be worth up to £15 million per year for the local economy118
It was announced on March 27 2009109 that Casement Park is set for a £61.m110 to £76m(€96m)111 total development on its current site. Previously, there were plans for a ground to be shared with rugby and soccer in a redevelopment of the Maze prison. These plans have been shelved112 It will bring the stadium to a state of the art 40,000 all-seater stadium which will be a stadium ‘worthy of Ireland’s second city’. 113 In the fifties the ambition was to develop the stadium to top standards. This is repeated in the new plans with designs for a new higher standard pitch and lighting, conference, corporate and community facilities. Extra player facilities, with better access and more car parking are features which seek to tackle modern demands114
Michael Foley and Denis Walsh, “Grounds Control,” The Sunday Times Sport p8, January 13 2013 109 Antrim and Down G.A.A. ‘Belfast Strategy’ 2009 http://www.crokepark.ie/getmedia/28681591-2716-406a-9c89-0ac4d89e02b2/BELFASTSTRATEGY.pdf 110 ibid 111 ‘Duffy: Spending £15 on Casement Park a no brainer’, Irish Examiner accessed February 11 2013 http://www.irishexaminer.com/sport/gaa/duffy-spending-15m-on-casement-park-ano-brainer-206383.html 112 Antrim and Down G.A.A. ‘Belfast Strategy’ 2009 113.Michael Foley and Denis Walsh, “Grounds Control,” 114 ‘Casement Park Public Consultation Announced’,G.A.A, Accessed March 3 2013 http://www.gaa.ie/gaa-news-and-videos/daily-news/1/0602132249-casement-park-publicconsultation-announced/ 108
' Remodelled stadium (‘New-look Casement Park revealed’, Belfast Telegraph accessed March10, ) ibid John Campbell, 'New look Casement Park Revealed’ Belfast Telegraph, Accessed March 9 2013, www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/gaa/newlook-casement-park-revealed-29056066.html 117 ‘Duffy: Spending £15 on Casement Park a no brainer’, Irish Examiner accessed February 11 2013 118 ‘Casement Park Public Consultation Announced’,G.A.A, Accessed March 3 2013 www.gaa.ie/gaa-news-and-videos/daily-news/1/0602132249-casement-park-publicconsultation-announced/ 115 116
The make do with what is available attitude in the construction of grounds where they are developed where there is a natural, a bureaucratic, or a material opportunity is paralleled by the use of teams of foreign flags. For example teams in red and white such as Cork or Louth use Japan or Canada flags, adapting what is available to fulfil a new purpose. This development approach delivers an unusual aesthetic, but one for the most part is very functional, and an asset which is delivered with good value for money.
The county grounds are a result of opportunism by the G.A.A. The G.A.A. like good entrepreneurs, took advantage of the rules and circumstances changing, and through organisation and ambition came out of the formative years of the Irish Free State with a collection of grounds that would ensure a high profile status and financial security. The county grounds give institutional status to the G.A.A. in the towns where they locate themselves. Like cathedrals or hospitals, the institution of the county grounds is spread all over the country strategically. The hard work that goes into running an amateur organisation, such as the G.A.A, means people have, in the grounds not only a financial investment but also a spiritual one and this leads to a great attachment to them. While grounds needed to be located in towns, these towns have also grown to need the income brought in by the stadia. The right amount of investment in the past in the grounds has maintained them as assets, which supply a steady income. In recent years, however, increasing safety and access standards means ground capacity has been cut greatly which in turn reduces income. In the past the improvements made by the G.A.A. have been simple, effective and crucially good value for money. However, now the solutions are more complex with more planning rules and safety measures, and while past solutions were provided by hard work and goodwill from G.A.A. members, current problems require safety experts, and large investments, which may not be worthwhile. These difficulties may require a different approach from the G.A.A.
Pairc Tailteann, a typical piece-meal ground, (Pairc Tailteann, World Stadiums, Accessed April 13 2013 www.worldstadiums.com/stadium_pictures/europe/ireland/navan_tailteann.shtml)
The ever altering county grounds, a product of changing needs and investment when money becomes available, leads to an architecture which is a series of layers filled with history and symbolism. This accretion and changes made keep the grounds functional and ensure that grounds have an aesthetic where form follows function, if not opportunity. Concrete, galvanised steel and mounds of earth are the material of the stadia. These grounds were created of the people and not egos, they follow natural enclosures, dips in the topography often going unnoticed in towns and fitting perfectly into place, many of the features of county grounds such as sunken pitches are used by modern stadium designers.
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Conor McMorrow, Dáil stars from Croke Park to Leinster House, (Dublin, Mentor, 2010.) 35
Cormac Moore, The G.A.A. v Douglas Hyde, (Cork, the Collins Press, 2012)
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Pearse Park Opening Programme 1957 Casement Park Opening Programme 1953
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Email Correspondence Tom Boyle John Costello Michael Kinsella Tommy Moran Gerry Oâ€™Neill Longford G.A.A.
Other Sources Census 2011, Central Statistics Office Ireland Census 2011, Northern Ireland Statistics And Research Agency Maps, Ordinance Survey Ireland
that was in it. Then you have the fact that, it wouldn’t call this so much so much political; because Clones or the Ulster Council, because they didn’t charge rates on the venue there were certain financial incentives; and what is more the fact that it was in the southern part ...enabled the Ulster Council to maintain that all of its monies went through the south, so that when dealing with the Northern Ministry of Finance they could say we don’t handle any of the money, and that line was perpetuated for 20, 30, 40 years, was still going in the 40s and 50s anyway , till at least into the 50s, so I’m not quite sure how all that worked, but certainly the Ulster Council liked to say that you can’t tax us on games because, well some of the games were held in the North, but it meant that Ulster final money wasn’t going into Northern taxation. As well as that you have to go back to the natural amphitheatre , particularly in the late 40s crowds attending Ulster finals rose dramatically; the town itself seemed well suited, the narrow streets the long hill going up to the venue all created a match atmosphere, it helped that people were relatively tightly packed, it was believed that it had much more character as a venue than say someplace like Belfast or the other provincial towns ; so those are all factors; there are possibly others I am not thinking of. Of course Monaghan had a lot of sway in the Ulster Council then and is beginning to do so again!
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW BY DARA CHALLONER WITH DONAL McANALLEN IN ARMAGH 22 MARCH 2013.
Dónal McAnallen Dónal McAnallen is a history graduate of Queen's University Belfast, and the National University of Ireland Galway. In both he played Gaelic football, was involved in organising Sigerson Cup tournaments, and he has been national treasurer and secretary of Comhairle Ardoideachais, the GAA's Higher Education Council. Throughout he remained active with his club, An Eaglais, Co. Tyrone. He has worked at the Cardinal O Fiaich Library & Archive, Armagh, has been widely published, and he co-edited The Evolution of the GAA (2009). Dara: First question on Clones itself which is in the south and I don’t want to get too political but it is something interesting with the six counties and the three counties. Do you think it is important that Clones as the main stadium in Ulster was in the south? Do you think that was intentional? Donal: Well Clones wouldn’t have existed as a county ground had it not been developed by local people so it wasn’t decided to do that from the top of the Ulster Council, and that development took place in the 1940s and was opened in ’44, I think, or there about, or maybe it was ’46, but it suited the times that was in it, that when it was developed and was developed to a relatively high standard for the time that it would be used, because Clones was a major railway juncture, from different directions, could be reached from all parts of the province and critically in that 1940s period railway is still the main mode of transport for supporters, also then, because it was relatively central in the province, there is another issue with the province in that the border issue which is relevant , but I think you have to look at the logistics, the logistics were suited for trains. Number two, it was relatively central in the province, now the centre of the province is somewhere in south Tyrone, but there is an argument to be made that it is one of the more accessible big towns in the province, and then as I say the fact that it was big enough to cater for; the big hill, an amphitheatre, a natural amphitheatre; Ok we are not talking about very luxury facilities here ,but ultimately it catered for the time
Dara: That is perfect, that answer now; these were my suspicions but I couldn’t really confirm them. You touched on there about how they didn’t want to pay tax in the North and they didn’t really want to have so much dealings with the Northern government. but a... Donal: They were slightly evasive about tax. Dara : I’m just looking at in terms of the whole time-line of the county grounds is that out of the six in the North, for example.. Donal: Bear in mind there was more than one county ground per county. Dara: Of course, but of the six that they use at present .. Donal: The six principal ones.
Dara : Yes,.Brewster Park and Healy Park the dates I have for them, obviously there might have been grounds there before, ‘72 and ’82 and Casement Park in ’53 they are later, as a rule for the six they are later than..
Dara: Could it be said that these grounds or the smaller county grounds were less invested in and because of that they didn’t meet the standards that people required these days or is it more to do with centralisation that they shifted , because in the south they seem to have longer histories going back further, but there’s obviously been changes for different reasons as you said for centralisation for geography..
Donal: Yes, but you have to bear in mind they were not the county grounds always, Omagh was not the county ground, Dungannon was the principal county ground in Tyrone from the 1920s on and that O’Neill Park 1947 program that I showed you. Dungannon was the county ground until the 1960s and Pomeroy, as well, was also a county ground, and Coalisland as well , so the county was more dominant towards the east of the county, whereas Omagh is in the west and it was only in the ‘60s that the west, now it is the sole county ground as it were because of the various requirements, but up until the 1990s a lot of the matches were held in Dungannon. Likewise, if you go to Fermanagh, Irvinstown was the main county ground until the 1990s. I remember going to a lot of Ulster championship games in Irvinstown in the 1980s, and it was open in the 1947 or whatever, so again you have Irvinstown the main county ground for 40 or so years and it was only in the last 20 years that Enniskillen for whatever reason, Irvinstown is more remote, it is in the very north of the county, it is not quite as well served by infrastructure, so it is not that these counties didn’t have county grounds that weren’t fit for purpose at the time , it is due more to centralisation and more emphasis on accessibility by roads and so on and the issue of centrality within a county. For all those reasons Enniskillen and Omagh have eclipsed previous venues, so I don’t know does that address the question in any way.
Donal: Are you suggesting that the principal venue in the south has remained in the same place, whereas there seems to be more changes in the north.. Dara: That might be because in the north there are three or four big towns in each county, but in the south in Offaly or Laois there is only one main town, it is really obvious.. Donal: Yea, but most counties I don’t know if that is fair, even in Kildare there are several roughly sized towns. I think those are more the exceptions than the rule. Well there’s much of a muchness. I think that’s, it could be just an anomaly, an anomaly that doesn’t have any explanation, but you have to look at the fact for example, the fact of the availability of suitable ground. I don’t know if this was a big factor in Omagh. But, in a very big sort of a broad way I would say the way you have to approach this is, right, more land was owned by people in Ulster by people that were not favourable to the G.A.A., therefore, whether the landowner be some of the landed gentry or it could be the state in one way or another like local corporation or council, they were generally less inclined to suit the G.A.A. whereas south of the border councils were bending over backward to facilitate the G.A.A., or people who owned land were happier to lease it or rent it or people found it easier to buy. Agricultural Societies owned a lot of ground in the south as well and that is an issue we will touch on in a moment, but for example, Breffni Park taken over in 1923 by the G.A.A. was previously an agricultural showgrounds. With the change of the free state, you know, with the G.A.A. and the games being part of the new official culture of the new state, there was sort of a moral pressure on people to provide for the games than before, so that the Unionist minded people who predominated in such as agriculture societies tended to be in smaller numbers after partition for one reason or another . So, I mean, whereas in the north for one reason or another the majority of councils were in the main Unionist governed, the Protestant
Dara: Definitely that addresses, but leading on from that would the former principal county grounds.. Donal: The same thing applies in county Down...Newcastle was the county ground in 1939 and remained the county ground until recent times , but over the last 25 years Newry has taken over, again for similar reasons , Dara: No. That is a good answer, could it be said that, Donal: Derry as well, Celtic Park in the last 20 years, before that it was Ballinscreen or Maherafelt, sorry. 41
Unionist population tended to own a lot of the land, so there was less possibility in certain counties , and I suppose, in an example such as Irvinstown I don’t think it was a strategic decision that Irvinstown was the best place in Fermanagh , Irvinstown was built up by local people and the priority was Enniskillen was a bit of a black spot for Gaelic games and for a long time. So, just by quirk of fate Irvinstown retained the position of principal ground and so whenever an infrastructure was being made , you know, money being invested in ground development I suppose Irvinstown got that decision, I think similarly in Dungannon and so on and the situation probably in Down as well, because Newry, apart from being a border town was on border with south and Armagh as well; Newcastle was more central within the county, but it is not easy to get at by road in certain directions. Newry maybe, maybe soccer was strong. Newry was not as strong in Gaelic games as one might expect and soccer would have a stronghold there and in Derry city soccer had a stronghold there and again Derry city is in the periphery of the county so hence it wasn’t strong in the G.A.A. there wasn’t much strength of organisation in the city, therefore there was less fundraising capacity and because it was a city with a big population there was less ground available, it was a gerry-mandered city with a lot of political controversy and obstructionism ...and indeed the Brandywell was used for Gaelic games in the 1920s and so on until the Unionists took over the corporation again and made it less available.
example, Celtic Park in Derry was originally a soccer ground in which Derry Celtic soccer club played. Did you know that? Dara: I read there was something played there before. Donal: Derry Celtic soccer club played there before, I think it was 1913. Then Derry Celtic was sold out of the I.F.A. The G.A.A. purchased it in 1943; but the G.A.A. didn’t decide its location, its location was predetermined by a sports field, by Derry Celtic . So, Derry Celtic were obviously a catholic club, but it wasn’t a predetermined decision to keep Gaelic games in this part. Derry Celtic were playing games against clubs like Linfield, Glentoran and others all over. As for the likes of Omagh; I’m not sure Healy Park in Omagh is a predominately Nationalist area. I’m under the impression there are a number of estates around there that are at least mixed. Again, I think it is the ground that was available at that time when the G.A.A. had a bit more money to spend ...Belfast, Casement Park , again you have to look on it as a Gaelic ground would not have been acceptable in other parts of the city ; the G.A.A. wasn’t strong enough in other parts of the city ...maybe that point would have a case there but you would probably find the G.A.A. had tried to buy in other places, but East Belfast being adjacent to the sea and North Belfast too, there may have been less ground available, South Belfast maybe the round was more expensive . You know there are lots of practical reasons, you might find that if the G.A.A. were hell bent in getting ground in East Belfast, you might find there was nobody willing to sell to them. I just don’t think you can say they wanted to be in a safe nationalist area; it was logical for any number of reasons that it happened that way.
Dara: Just there leading on to location and where it is favourable, just looking at these maps here; one is Enniskilllen here where a lot of the grounds, especially in the north, such as Enniskillen here or Omagh. The old town , the grounds are far away from what would have been the old town or what would be the centre of town these day; even in Derry it is right in the ...would you see it as being intentional to keep the crowds away from the centre.
Dara: But a...but it would have been a push or pull factor in many cases, a push factor from unionist side or pull factor from the nationalist. Donal: Yes, but I’m just trying to think, you know, if there are any other examples of that. Again, the one thing we have to remember is that historically with the older grounds is that the depth of feeling in Ulster about Sunday games. This is something I have written about and spoken about a lot. Again, the main principal Unionist objection to Gaelic games in Ulster for 50s, 60s, up to the 60s was actually the playing of games on Sundays.
Donal: Not really. I think it is more a case of where grounds were available and where people were willing to sell to the G.A.A. Again, if you are just talking about county grounds they are not a huge number we are talking about so you have to just treat them on a case by case basis and not miss if there is a clear pattern. But I don’t think there is a clear pattern. For 42
They regarded them as an encroachment into what was a Protestant area and a desecration of the Sabbath, and not only a disturbing of Sunday in general but they could hear the games and all the shout and cheering and fighting going on during their church services. I found a lot of letters to that extent from the 40s and 50s and so on, and in newspapers, but the problem is that in regard to that there is obviously a certain degree of exaggeration because they weren’t in church all day, but people did spend some time in church on Sundays and some afternoons, so there was quite a degree of validity to it , but the point is peer pressure was put on Protestant farmers and land-owners not to lease land to Gaelic games, on a political level Gaelic games were represented by, if you read the statement by Seán o Siocháin at the opening of Casement Park, or Padraig O Caoimh, sorry, there is sort of an Nationalist language about the reclaiming of the green field , that sort of language is used and the point is, you know, symbolically the playing of Gaelic games in certain are mixed or predominately Protestant was held in great suspicion by Protestants , but also championed by nationalists as being proof that they were well on the way to reclaiming the fourth green field, so the peer pressure on Protestants and local councils obstructed the provision on many occasions and in many different ways prevented the provision of a Gaelic games ground because of the no Sunday games thing, so again I don’t know that you can really say that it was a conscious decision that we will stay here because it is a safe thing because it was where were they acceptable, where was land available, where were people going to be making land available to them and where were people going to accept it. When you go into local places, places where there is a very fierce Loyalist majority like in Lisburn or Bangor or somewhere like that where there were Gaelic clubs in the last 40 years especially in the there may have been decisions based in some situations based on safety, but I don’t think it was the very foremost thing in most places, and I say safety in a very broad meaning way, I don’t just mean actual physical safety. The safety of the ground can come in any form of bad treatment.
example in Omagh and Enniskillen would people be in the bars in the centre of town as in say Portlaoise on a match championship day. Donal: I don’t know about that, but no not really the culture. I don’t think so. In Omagh I don’t think so . But the ground did not become popular till the 60s and even then not so many bigger games were there compared to the last 25 years. No it had not the same pub culture .You know I don’t drink so I may not know. Where else did you ask me about? Dara: I suppose Armagh could be. Donal: No not really. This is a factor that goes back to your previous question. I remember reading about a match being played in Newry in the 1920s that because of the fierce observance of the Sunday culture there was a certain benefit in holding things in somewhere like Irvinstown, which is predominately nationalist, because in a lot of places shops or services would not have been available on Sunday, so if you were holding something in a town say the likes of Omagh there may not have been shops etc open on a Sunday, but I’m not sure to what extent. I’m sure you could get a meal somewhere but the provision might have been quite limited. What was your last question again? Sorry! Dara: Would there be any trouble of people occupying the town, the large crowds. Donal. You see the likes of Omagh have been developed since the railways have been discontinued, so if it were a case that people had been spilling onto the streets from the rail station they might have been inclined to go towards the pubs, but because of its outskirts location and because they would have been travelling by cars, and because they can’t drink and drive and because they shouldn’t be drinking and driving there not the same culture. There wasn’t the same history of going to pubs, there might be a few. I know you are thinking of Mullingar possibly as well or the like of Croke Park and maybe Thurles and that, but because there was no tradition of doing it because the grounds weren’t that old. There is a big tradition of it in Clones.
Dara: In terms of this again, before matches say in Ulster and being in the centre of the town was that O.K. say in Omagh, Enniskillen or any of the Northern; Belfast it is quite outside the town or the city centre, but for
Dara: That would probably be a benefit to Clones, to have a big match. 43
Donal: It suited the layout of Clones, it suited the fact that Cones pitch is a short distance from the town centre and there was a tradition built up when the train station operated that people would go and use the pub. But I don’t know if the pub culture had any say in where a venue was going to be.
denial of council facilities to clubs for leasing, for a match and whatever like training over many decades is that clubs had to invest in buying their own facilities and now that the primary funding is for the investment in capital facilities more G.A.A. clubs in the north own facilities than any other kind of sport, not more so than in the south, but it shows, there is a perception by unionists that the G.A.A. is benefiting too much from sporting money, but that is partly due to in certain towns had local councils been prepared to provide Gaelic fields on council facilities at different times maybe clubs would not have had to buy their own . They had to buy their own and therefore they were in a position to apply for capital funding and so on. There is a perception in the south that the funding is better in the north,; I don’t know that, I haven’t seen any comparative studies. It depends who the Minister is in the south, as you know ....
Dara: I suppose the next question in moving away from that theme is that I’ve read a lot that anything the G.A.A. got in the north they had to go to their own community and do a lot of hard fund-raising, much harder fundraising than in the south . In the past few years the Peace Dividend, as it is called , that Casement Park has gotten a good bit of financing from the Sports Council Donal: I’m not sure it is all the Sports Council, it might be, I’m just not sure. Dara: Was there no government support in the past?
Dara: You touched on earlier just in the whole of Ireland there was controversy around leasing and buying in the early stages of the G.A.A.
Donal: No, not until the formation of the Youth and Sports of Northern Ireland council in 1962. The Land Commission didn’t exist up here for that purpose. So what happened from 1960s onwards is that the Youth and Sports Council was formed, and the difference between it and local government and the Ministry of Education was the Youth and Sports Council was under the auspicious of the Ministry of Education , but what made the difference was the Youth and Sports Council was essentially a quango and was different from local councils; local councils had previously been making decisions based on local political prejudices and weren’t making grounds available to certain sports because they didn’t like them or their own preferences. The difference the Youth and Sports Council was individual clubs could apply to it from right across the sporting spectrum for funding, for capital development of facilities and they were treated on their sporting merits and not on their political merits. You had people who were experts on sports and youth provision and they were not looking on it on whether you were a unionist or a nationalist. So, partly due to the times it was set up as well there was a different approach, a holistic view, and county grounds began to get funded by the state and as the Sports Council began to take a bigger role that amount of funding became greater. The stigma of applying to the state for money receded, and more and more clubs and counties did it, and I suppose it is an irony of the fact that one of the ironic results of the
Donal: Before partition and slightly afterwards the G.A.A. struggled to get suitable grounds until after the foundation of the free state. In places such as Cork, there was a Cork Park there which the G.A.A. tried to use in the 1900s, but Sunday play was disapproved of there. Kilkenny Agricultural Society, .there were conflicts there over in 1900s and 1910 s; Cavan, as I mentioned; there was a controversy about a ground in Terenure which the G.A.A.tried to use for big games in 1890s and 1900s and that was sort of where because of objections they had to look towards Jones’s Road. This existed in quite a number of provincial towns The G.A.A. also might would of sourced land from the Catholic Church, which Right across land hads its own parameters of ownership. Dara: Was this about getting control. Donal: Well it was that Agricultural Societies and similar bodies were more Protestant and Unionist and tended to be more disapproving of Gaelic games and Sunday games. They either ruled out Sunday games altogether or made the rent prohibitive ...and this caused conflict because in those counties in particular there was a majority nationalist population and the G.A.A. tended to fight these things through the press and I can get you references for some 44
of them if you want, certainly that was the case in several cases and it has been largely forgotten and another thing I suppose of interest you know I see you have Rule 42 there, the G.A.A. weren’t the first organisation to put in a rule to ban the use of other sports on its facilities ...in 1888 Belfast Celtic football club had leased their grounds for a big G.A.A. revival day in Belfast and the I.F.A. immediately threatened to expel Belfast Celtic if the allowed this to go ahead. So, from then on the I.F.A. introduced a rule which said that none of the grounds of its affiliated clubs could be used for sports on a Sunday. This was actively a bar on G.A.A. activities, it wasn’t stated explicitly so but that is what the effect was. So that meant the G.A.A. who had been trying to use the likes of Belfast Celtic grounds, but they weren’t able to do so from there on, so you have another reason the G.A.A. had to plough its own furrow and maybe look for grounds where it could get them. island, not in every town , the G.A.A. owned very few facilities up to the 1920s and even to get access to any well catered for grounds of any type was a battle , some cases with local government. Navan, another one, there was a book written called “The Struggle for Pairc Tailteann” (Michael O’Brien) with the Agricultural Society. That went on for maybe 25 years until it became Páirc Tailteann. It was the grounds of the Meath Agricultural Society
Donal: Why do you think it was there? I’m interested in how much you know about it. Dara: I really don’t know much about it. Donal: Do you know that it applied all over Ireland. What if I were to tell you that the ban on crown forces was never officially abolished. South of the border is was interpreted not to include the Gardai. At the start of the state some believed that the guards in the free state should come under it anyway because the free state was under the commonwealth, was still part of the Empire as such. So, the point is it was a matter of interpretation that they didn’t come under it. So, the rule pre-existed partition and the rule wasn’t tinkered with after partition. Like the RAF, the Royal Airforce were never banned because there were no such thing as fighter pilots when the ban was originally introduced, so it was an anomaly. What I’m saying is the rule was strengthened over a period, 1901-1903 and 1916 and 1918; after there were various arguments made about military occupation and so on, but my theory on this and I would argue it strongly is that the rule wasn’t meant primarily, from 1920 to 1960s, as a method of exclusion of RUC men; in many cases RUC men actively played Gaelic games for local clubs under the radar, people generally knew who they were and some of them may have gone out to give them a dig, but it just happened and more often than not it happened without any objection. So, my point is the retention of that rule, and I stress the retention of that rule, not creation of the rule after partition was meant as the G.A.A. tacit defence of partition. There was nothing in the rule book stating they did not recognise the six counties, but the retention of the rule was an indirect way of saying we accept this political arrangement, and on the verge of the troubles issued a statement that they would not enforce that rule if there was an attempt to review policing and re set it to disband the Bspecials and to disarm the RUC. An attempt that took place in 1968 and called the Hunt report. The Ulster Council came out with a statement saying in the context of the mooted reform of the police we will not enforce this rule, which was a big enough statement What happened then were the Troubles broke out. The 1971 congress when the ban on soccer and rugby was removed, it was a motion from the 12 counties including Fermanagh. Things have healed up recently, a couple of controversial things have
Dara: I suppose the last question in kind of more on attitude and not directly to the grounds. Say on Rule 21, although now abolished since 2001, about the ban on British security forces which didn’t have any effect on the south after Independence. Why do you think almost all the counties voted to get rid of it while 5 of the 6 Northern counties voted to keep it. Donal: Well a lot of the southern counties had not voted against retention up until that point, up until 2001. This was a regular vote through decades and it wasn’t just the Ulster counties, and with the block vote from the north and counties like Cork, Kerry and other Munster counties some of the foreign counties, or overseas units. Are you specifically asking me about that moment and is it really relevant. Dara: I’m not sure if it is really relevant yet, but it could be relevant , but two parts to this. Firstly, why do you think it was important to have a ban on British security forces, and then why in the north was that kept and in other counties as well. 45
happened. In the course of the next few months after April 1971 and Congress, Casement Park in Belfast was occupied, Crossmaglen was occupied, internment was introduced in August 1971. The effect of those was that the military occupation was seen as using the G.A.A as part of the war that was going on, and it was very keenly felt by the G.A.A. all over Ireland and number two internment intensified the troubles themselves and led to much more bloodshed. That led to much more aversion towards police and forces of the British army and it meant the rule was retained. And what happened in that post 1971 environment was although most members of the G.A.A. in the south and many members in the north would regard the rule as accronistic , maybe even as an obstacle to progress. It was retained largely because it became a sort of a pawn and until there was a change in the policing and forces the rule would not be removed. So, forgive me for that long thing, but I think that it is important. But I think it is tangential to what you are doing. What happened then the Patton Commission was set up and policing was examined and it was in that context that southern counties began to change. There is still a residue of resistance in the north because they didn’t know how things were going to pan out, they knew it was going to be accepted and they didn’t want a split in the association
Crown forces had been discriminatory towards the GAA games that they were spying on them. There was an ideological viewpoint that they were agents of the British state. Just on Casement itself, I have been in conversation with Unionists, Nationalist and it does have to be said that Casement Park is divisive name, he might be a hero to nationalists, but he is also seen as a terrorist, while the G.A.A. community might not like to admit it, it doesn’t help with some situations and makes it hard for certain groups to support the G.A.A. It’s also interesting to look at a timeline into the naming of the Grounds and the outlook of the association
Dara: I understand why there would be more bad feeling in the north, but initially it started as just in 1901...
Dara: That is great, that’s great.
Dara: Do you think in the future, that the Grounds will be more hierarchal with perhaps 8 good grounds used a lot and 24 more compact grounds used less often. Cormac: I don’t think that’s how it will go, It’s very tribal, there isn’t always a great deal of compromise, and county chairman like to leave their mark in the form of bricks and mortar, the fact is policy changes so often in different things that it doesn’t seem likely that a plan like that although sensible would work.
Donal: Is that enough for now. I will be around for a while if you need any more.
Donal: I think it was 1901, it was the Dublin delegation that put it forward. The first time it was introduced was 1897 and was there till 1993, or something,
Dara: Thank You.
Dara: was it introduced as a gesture saying that they were unhappy with the British being here Donal: The original conception in 1887 was because the RIC was regarded as being unfair and part of the Irish land war and, also, there was the issue of spying. Police men are here to spy on our activities and report on them and they were reporting on things. The rule didn’t prevent them from doing it but it was a diversion within the GAA and there is also, the fact that the IRB took over the GAA for a while. The rule was rescinded in 1997 but it was members of the IRB that proposed it again and largely on the basis that the 46
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW BY DARA CHALLONER WITH CORMAC MOORE IN BY PHONE 15 MARCH 2013.
Cormac: Its an extraordinary achievement that from nothing, they have built up so much ownership of grounds. They are the same as a church or a post office in any toen in Ireland. It is such a quick revolution, and it’s an interesting way they sustain themselves, buying the grounds and cutting out problems for themselves. They seems to balance themselves out without being affected by recessions and booms through good and bad. If you compare to rugby its extraordinary, it really leaves soccer in terms of facilities wanting. It’s a wonderful success story based on some planning and enough organisation to take advantage of opputunities, It’s is a cornerstone of Irish life. The county grounds have a real psychological presence in towns helping the growth of the G.A.A
Cormac Moore Cormac Moore wrote his Master Thesis in Modern Irish History inUCD on the removal of Ireland's first President, Dr. Douglas Hyde as patron of the GAA in 2009/2010 This was turned into a book and published in 2012 by the Collins press titled The G.A.A. v Douglas Hyde, the removal Ireland’s first President as G.A.A. Patron. Currently he is writing his Ph.D in UCD; A Study of Soccer in Ireland 1880 - 1932. Dara: Hello Cormac thanks for speaking with me, I have read your book an d it was very insightful.
Dara: Thats great thank you very much for your time. Cormac: No problem at all.
Cormac: No problem at all, your topic of research seems very interesting Dara: Where did you find the best sources of materials? Cormac: The G.A.A. archive in Croke Park of course, in addition to this the provincial locations are also a very good source, in Ballyhaunis for Connaught and Portlaoise in Leinster as well as the other two with Donal McAnallen being a good source of material in Ulster. For my own work I also looked at the President’s papers b possibly the work of Mike Cronin’s the place we play would be good, or get in touch with Roisin Higgins. For the buying you should be look at the central council minutes and secretary reports in the archive.Talking to Paul Rouse would also be helpful. Dara: Just on the county grounds themselves, what do you think if anything makes them special? 47
Seamus: Yes, well you see Athy was really a leading light in that All-Irelands were played in Athy and semi-finals. Athy was said here ( referring to “ Kildare G.A.A. A Centenary History” by Eoghan Corry ; Kildare County Board 1984 ) to be the best ground in Ireland that time because it was built on railway cinders , it was really, and it is still the same grounds today before there were county pitches or anything like that. Wait now until I just; during the second World War ‘39 to ’45 when turf production was required, in that there was no coal or anything coming in, and I can remember going to matches there myself, even though I was only a kid. The Bord na Mona (Turf Board) were housed there ; they all went out to a place called Kilmacthomas which is out near Coill Dubh or out that area.
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH SEAMUS ALDRIDGE IN NAAS ON MARCH 29TH 2013.
Seamus Aldridge Seamus Aldridge has been a committed member of the G.A.A. for his whole life and in that time he done everything the game asks for. He was a former Kildare player as well as playing club football with the Round Towers club in Kildare town. After playing he was an important referee, once refereeing an All-Ireland Football Final. He was secretary of Kildare County Board for many years, and later chairman of the Leinster Council. He is also an inductee of the Leinster G.A.A. Hall of Fame.
Dara: It seems like now that the Barracks can’t really be seen
Dara: I suppose I just have a few questions on Saint Conleth’s. Going back into the years, into the 60s, the 70s and the 80s were there more championship games played in Saint Conleth’s Park in the past, were there more big games?
Seamus: Oh I can remember the barracks Dara: It was knocked down over the years.
Seamus: Oh they were all big games and this gives all that, these three pages, (making reference to “Kildsare G.A.A A Cenennary History” by Eoghan Corry; Kildare County Board 1984) While health and safety has now controlled, it has reduced the attendance to 6,000. It shows here( referring to Eoghan Corry’s “Kildare G.A.A. A Centenary History” ; Kildare County Board 1984) matches that were played in Newbridge. There were matches played in Newbridge, several matches, where there were in excess of 20,000. Now, Saint Conleth’s Park was previously the British Army Barracks. They moved out in 1922-23 and it was taken over by the Board of Works. Simultaneously with this, you’re not interested in this Father Brennan’s Park was going on in Athy
Seamus: It has been knocked down over the year, yes! It was knocked down, half of the area was retained by the Board of Works. The portion that was given over to the G.A.A. was; that’s the pitch if you like ( referring to Eoghan Corry’s work as above) This is the Kilcullen end, this is the stands along here, and it came out here and came in this way. Bord na Mona workers were in there (referring to Eoghan Corry’s work as above) There were huge big buildings, you would have to confess that anything the British Army did was pretty impressive, and then here you have the town hall in Newbridge. Then there is the Main Street and an entrance in this way. But the County Board (G.A.A Board) gave this portion of the land in a deal in 1985 for to, they (town council) would use it as a car park and would always be available to the G.A.A. as a car park. They built this boundary wall , the new committee rooms ( of the G.A.A. inside the grounds) and so on. No monies switched hands. Have you questions you want to ask me?
Dara: Yes, I am interested in that as well as it is interesting why they placed it in Newbridge and not in Naas.
Dara: Yes. That is great information. Do you wish there were more games played in Conleth’s Park, more championship games or do you feel the big days out in Dublin are important?
were three. Now during my term we covered the thing from end to end and most of the work went on down the Kilcullen end. That had to be all concreted and stepped and we stepped it in such a way, normally the distance between the steps was a foot to eighteen inches, but we stepped it two foot two which would have allowed seating just to be planted in it and you would have room so that your knees would not be hitting the seating in front. All that was taken into account for someone to come along ( in the future) and do that, but he never came along if you see what I mean
Seamus: I definitely feel that Kildare and each county , Newbridge was the place where people went to see big games being played. Leinster club finals were played there, but suddenly this health and safety issue came in; well seemingly there was a period during the reign of three county chairmen when much wasn’t done with Newbridge at all and it fell into decline . There were plans to develop it, but it was never seen through, and when I retired as county secretary/treasurer there were over half a million in funds that were to be primarily used for that (development) I’m sure . Now, they are two million in the red with no hope of it ( Saint Conleth’s Park) ever emerging to the respect it had in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It is a long way off unless the recession, the government, unless the Celtic Tiger comes back again.
Dara: That seems to be the downfall at that point. It used to be a very good stadium you are saying, but it seems to have fallen behind O’Moore Park or O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Seamus: I can remember Tullamore came to me to have a look at Newbridge, that they were going to model Tullamore on Newbridge. Portlaoise came to me saying they were going to model Portlaoise on Newbridge. So, Newbridge was recognised as being ahead of the posse, but then the others, we were probably slow in that we could have been spending and going into debt at that time to do a proper stand. But the feeling was at that time that you only paid for a thing as you went along rather than anything else. You just couldn’t walk into a bank at that time and get loans of millions or anything like that. But we never even tried, we never went down that road. We might have spent 50,000 on it this year and 60,000 a few years after that, but it was very piecemeal and is now to the detriment of what is there.
Dara: Do you feel Kildare has really lost out. With the half million they had, if they had spent same they would not be two million in debt. They would be getting more money in Seamus: Yes, sure I mean to say it makes sense the rent from matches; if you have a match in Newbridge which produces a gate of 100, 000 pounds for the Leinster Council or Central Council you get 15%; you have 15,000 out of it, so your fund is appreciating for to reinvest in the ground, provided you ring-fence that money for the development of the ground rather than spending it on the day to day running of the county teams and that.
Dara: It seems like that with G.A.A grounds most have spent a little to gain a lot, but Kildare have not spent a little and lost a lot, really.
Dara: The main stand was built in 1978; there seemed to be three stands beforehand. Is that correct?
Seamus: Now that exactly sums it up. Yes!
Seamus: Yes, there were. There was one stand in the middle; then there was an addition terrace stand and then there was another bit of a stand, so there 49
Dara: Do you think they will ever move? There were talks of selling the ground in the boom. Do you think it will ever move outside Newbridge?
Seamus: Tullamore. Yes!. I would say Tullamore and Portlaoise would be my favourite after that. Navan, but Navan is a little bit like Kildare in that it was developed in the same manner as Kildare. It was developed as they went along and left no debt . Tullamore is fairly up to its neck in debt now, too, which is difficult to service .
Seamus: Well, that was a very commendable idea at the time. They came to me at that time and I sought advice from a person in that business. Actually, it was Tom Treacy who built most of the expansion of Newbridge town and indeed the shopping centre in Naas. He felt that was a foolish game in that Newbridge when the Whitewater (shopping centre) was built had commercial buildings that were going to cater for the next 30 or 40 years. The people involved in the deal for the grounds and the figures they were quoting ( sell Conleths Park to developers and move to a new stadium ouside the town in a swap deal) thought they were going to build something better than the Whitewater . Then the downturn came. Again, it was a swop of land. They were to get 28 acres, with a 20,000 seater stadium. It sounded grand, but you have to be realistic as well.
Dara: But at the same time.. Seamus: But I would say go ahead and do the stadium. You will always have the stadium . The debt will always, the banks are never going to move in and take over a G.A.A. pitch Dara: The thing about the debt is Tullamore has the ability to earn a bit of money, while Kildare has debt but no stadium .. Seamus: And this was always a drawback in Newbridge that the shops that were benefitting from the matches being in Newbridge were not prepared to sponsor even to make a sign for a hundred pounds per year for around the pitch. Pubs close by, and all sorts of places like that, that made hundreds every time there was a match there, even local championship matches.
Dara: Do you feel it is important to be in the town, with the tradition of going to maybe .. Seamus: I think it is very important in that Newbridge was unique in that you could get into Newbridge from North, South, East and West and byways as well. It had a great ability to empty after a match and for people to park all around the town, even more so than Tullamore. But, I think what they did In Tullamore was the best job outside Croke Park. Tullamore now are falling foul for the fact that they didn’t put in flood lights, so they can’t have the matches they want. But, is it worth spending a million on floodlights for the sake of maybe three matches, because you are cramming the fixtures into a shorter period, so maybe you are playing on Wednesday nights.
Dara: There was little support? Seamus: Little support. All the commercial signs from around the pitch were from outside of Newbridge. Dara: In terms of over the years there seems to be little changes, like drainage or barrier walls and little change in the stand over the years , you mentioned help from Bord na Mona. Do you need help from just the G.A.A. community over the years. What would be the source of the fund-raising ?
Dara: Do you have a favourite other ground ..
Seamus: Well do you see Tullamore had it in that it wasn’t the county grounds, it was the Tullamore club and clubs within a town get more 50
support. The county board (it is perceived) have plenty of this and plenty of that when it is not the case. And the same thing in Portlaoise, look at Portlaoise has developed and the stand is fine and a great job. But, the Portlaoise club that was the back of that place did a swop which was the same as the deal that was on the cards for Newbridge and the recession came and they couldn’t go ahead with their development and your man ( developer) wanted his money back, so Portlaoise club was now in debt around six or seven million pounds. That is desperate for a club and they have nothing only pitches.
you paid the lad who looked after the bikes three pence. He stuck a number on the bike and you had the other half of it. You gave your ticket when you got back and he got out your bike. The first clear memory I have was at a match in Newbridge, I think in 1947 and the Army played Sarsfields, and John Joe O’Reilly the famous Cavan footballer was a Commandant in the army. I remember going over and getting his autograph. There was upwards of fifteen to twenty thousand at all those county finals. When the dog track was around the field they had seats that they used to bring out as side line seats and planks that would go out; they were about twenty foot long and were put on special blocks and you paid for these. It was an income, an extra shilling or something to go in there rather than stand on a grassy bank.
Dara: Have you noticed over the years changes to the grounds in terms of facilities. Long ago it was just basic stands , nowadays, especially in Croke Park the facilities are great .
Dara: You mentioned in terms of the sponsorship. Say for example that Tegral were sponsors for twenty years and changed to Brady’s Ham this year, do you feel that rather than a business decision it is a good-will decision to support the G.A.A.
Seamus: Well! First of all when you think of facilities, first they should be for the players, where they strip and that. They were very old and out of date totally in Newbridge; where the players used to strip you had the lime and the bags of stuff for the field and everything. It was an awful state of affairs. That is why in 1984 we got the four dressing rooms and the committee rooms it gave it a look of some respectability, that came for switching the land where the car park is outside now , you could see that was going to help on match day
Seamus: You mean from a sponsors side. The first sponsors were PitmanMoore . And Kildare were the first team to have something sponsored. I remember I the negotiating with John White of Pitman-Moore and we thought that if we could get a couple of sets of jerseys. This was 1989 and we had a mind if we could get a couple of thousand pounds it would be great. During the negotiations Kildare got to the league final and we bluffed and Pitman-Moore offered us twenty-five thousand. I told them I would have to let them know as there were other people interested while in fact there weren’t. We let him know within the hour. When Tegral left they were giving up to one hundred thousand, plus they gave 10, 000 here and 10,000 there for players to go on holidays and the like. Sponsorship was the way forward it seemed. It eased the pressure on county boards to be doing all this , and at the same time by doing it you were bringing the players along and making them happier than previous
Dara: In terms of getting to the games over the years would you have gone by train or cycle. Seamus: Me? Dara: Going right back now as a kid Seamus: In the 1940s. I started going to matches in Newbridge in 1946 and we always cycled from Kildare. You left your bike at a place for bicycles and 51
Dara: That is about all. That is great information.
Seamus: They had it up to 1958 was it or maybe ’64?
Seamus: And you have that book?
Dara: ’65 it seems to be still there anyway in a photo.
Dara: It is in the G.A.A. Archives. If I could borrow it for a little while it would be great. Seamus: Borrow it, but you will have to bring it back. I stuck bits and pieces in that (for reference) There was always great friction between the dog-track and
Seamus: Oh yes! Well the greyhound track was always there even when they were gone out of it, in that there was only an old wooden railings around them...only done in mid ‘70s. So the greyhound track as an identity or a building was there. The old lighting which they had up for the dogs to run at night-time, because as you know greyhound racing is in the evening. So that’s it!!
Dara: That was a final question. Any great controversies over the years?
Dara: That’s great information. Thanks a million.
Seamus: Yes, there were huge ones. It is all recorded there in Corry’s book. Dara: That is great and thank you very much. Seamus: I got stuff, say page 335 “The county board resolved to get their own grounds. Moves were initiated in 1924 to acquire the old barracks. It took three years to get leave from the Board of Works so in May 1930 Droicead Nua ground was opened by Father Brennan, who was the man Naas grounds were called after. And the grey-hound racing, the County Board at one stage were suspended by the Central Council over the gambling and bookies, Central Council suspended Kildare because they wouldn’t get thw bookies out. The Chairman, in fact he was the first Kildare man to be Chairman of the Leinster Council, he had no support from the others, there was always an affinity towards gambling, horse racing, dog racing and everything . So, Newbridge greyhound people got their support and sent a contact to the delegates and was passed by 38 votes to 8, it is all in there in Eoghan Corry’s book , how the greyhound people got in, but the getting out of them was very different. Dara: When did they get out? 52
Survey of County Grounds
Notes on Survey This survey was conducted to analyse the county grounds in a scientific way and not to not rely solely on written and oral sources for information as these may be to some degree subjective. The information acquired includes photos to help give a sense of the grounds. The maps with the pitches highlighted are to inform about the locations of the ground within the urban framework of the towns. The historical maps have been chosen to give insight into former uses of grounds and inform thought on placement of grounds at time of conception. Statistics such as data relating to foundation of the grounds and capacity act to give deeper understanding to the grounds. Population figures and comparison also enable thought on how the large crowds at games affect town dynamic on game day. The sections of the survey which were constructed using photographs of the stadia, ordnance survey maps, topographical maps, site visits, google streetview and construction drawings are created to give a better architectural understanding of the stadia. These drawings were vital to developing an understanding of the method of construction for the grounds.