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Waterford GAA release statement strongly refuting Martin Cullen comments over new stadium

Former Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Cullen said he’d have delivered a new stadium for Waterford a decade ago if they had shown enough interest.

A view of planning permission for the redevelopment of Walsh Park
A view of planning permission for the redevelopment of Walsh Park
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

WATERFORD GAA HAVE strongly refuted comments made by sports minister Martin Cullen where he claimed he’d have delivered a new stadium for the county a decade ago if Deise officials were compliant.

In an interview on WLR FM last week, Cullen said Waterford GAA officials cost the county “two or three All-Irelands” by their failure to show enough interest in building a new 25,000-capacity stadium on WIT’s Carriganore campus.

“That possibility (of building a new stadium) was there, it was real, it existed and it never got off the ground because Waterford county board dropped the ball,” Cullen said. “Let nobody have any doubt in their mind, I would have delivered that for Waterford.”

Cullen said he was told by the Waterford county board there was no money to redevelop Walsh Park. A plan was then put together to sell Walsh Park and spend the money on a new €25m development in WIT that would be part-funded by the Department of Education and Sport but it never materialised.

He added: “In my entire career, I was never asked to meet the county board in Waterford, even though I asked to meet them. Not once, ever. The county board wanted 100% funding for Walsh Park, which wasn’t being given to any other stadium in the country.”

A view of dry conditions at Walsh Park A view of dry conditions at Walsh Park Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

In a statement released today, Waterford GAA strongly denied the allegations.

“Mr. Cullen claimed in the interview that he never met the Waterford County Board,” it read.

“However, the fact is that in January 2006 representatives of the Waterford county board including the chairman Pat Flynn met with Martin Cullen regarding the board’s application for Sports Capital Funding for Walsh Park.

“Matching funding was also sought from the GAA centrally and the Munster Council and the Board never looked for or would expect 100% funding for a project as claimed by Martin Cullen.

“At a meeting in June 2006, Martin Cullen informed the county board chairman that there were two major applications for Sports Capital Funding from Waterford in the Department and the Government would only fund one project namely WIT and not Walsh Park.

“The board, who had been in talks with WIT since 2005, decided to re-examine the joint venture regarding a new stadium in Carriganore. The negotiations included joint meetings between Croke Park, WIT and Waterford GAA.

“In 2007, the board commissioned Atlantic Sports Management to carry a feasibility study to examine the options for the development of a stadium in Waterford. Plans and budgets for a stadium were drawn up by Horgan Lynch in March 2008.

“In June 2008 County Board Officers met with Martin Cullen following his appointment as the Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism regarding the stadium project. The Consultant’s report was presented to the County Board meeting on July 14th 2008 and the recommendation of commencing negotiations with WIT to create a partnership to develop a major GAA stadium in conjunction with a Third Level College was unanimously agreed.

Martin Cullen TD Former minister Martin Cullen Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Negotiations with WIT were still ongoing in December 2008, however, the development landscape had changed dramatically due to the 2008 financial crisis and it was clear at that stage that the proposed project could not be realised.

It continued: “The Waterford county board would like to re-iterate that a figure of €25m for a new stadium was never mentioned, discussed or presented to Waterford GAA, its officers or indeed Croke Park by former Minister Cullen or any Government representative of that era.

“In fact, no figure of any description was offered or presented and the Waterford County Board would call on Martin Cullen to withdraw his comments or produce documentation to substantiate such a claim.

“Mr Cullen’s assertion that there is an east/west divide crippling progress in Waterford is totally unfounded. The county board is made up of 50 clubs and 17 executive members from across the east and west of the county and works effectively as a unit with a common purpose and vision for the enhancement of the Association in Waterford.

“In relation to the development of a stadium at the time in question, the County Board unanimously approved: the redevelopment of Walsh Park in 2005, the commissioning of a feasibility study into a new stadium in 2007 and the findings of that study recommending Carriganore as the site for a stadium in 2008.

“The board also in February this year unanimously approved the current plans for the redevelopment of Walsh Park. Our focus is now on developing a first-class stadium at Walsh Park which everyone in Waterford can be proud of.

“Waterford GAA acknowledges and appreciates all the support it has received recently.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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