GAA chief - 'Waterford people deserve to have championship games played in the city'

There’s still uncertainty where Waterford’s home games will be played this summer.

THERE WAS WIDESPREAD sympathy for the Waterford hurlers last summer with the lack of home games in the Munster championship viewed as a major factor behind their season ending abruptly in mid-June.

The Waterford team huddle The Waterford hurlers before last summer's championship game against Tipperary. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The 2017 All-Ireland finalists failed to emerge from the province round-robin structure with their home venue of Walsh Park deemed unsuitable to host matches.

There is still doubt over whether they will be able to play Munster clashes there in 2019. Last November the Munster Council ruled out a proposal by Waterford that would allow them to nominate a venue outside the province for their home games. That would have made Nowlan Park a viable option for their games against Clare and Limerick.

GAA Director-General Tom Ryan can understand the tricky situation Waterford face and admitted his disappointment that they were prevented from having home this in 2018.

Ryan revealed yesterday at the launch of his annual report that the GAA are firmly behind plans to redevelop Walsh Park and that there are no other locations being considered for Waterford’s flagship venue despite Carriganore, the facility that WIT have developed, being touted as a potential solution.

But Ryan insisted that it is primarily a matter for the Munster Council and he cannot state when the refurbishment of Walsh Park will be completed.

A general view of Walsh Park before the game Walsh Park has been deemed unsuitable to host Munster championship ties. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“We want to invest something in Walsh Park, we want to get to a stage where they’re able to play (games there). Waterford people deserve to have championship games played in the city.

“There’s a plan to do up Walsh Park and to invest significant funds in that and we’ll play our part in that with Munster and along with the county themselves. Whether it’s this year or whether it’s in subsequent years, I can’t, hand on heart, say at this point.

“It’s directly one for Munster Council rather than for myself but certainly the will is there to make sure that games can be played in Walsh Park. And when I say Waterford, I do mean Walsh Park. There was talk about other venues or possible facilities in the city there over the course of a few months towards the end of last year. We did look actually at other alternatives and we did look at other possible investments.

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A general view of the Waterford dressing room prior to the game Waterford are due to have home games against Clare and Limerick this season. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“The amount that would have to be spent before you’d even see anything above the ground was prohibitive. It will be possible for us to do a good job on Walsh Park but they won’t need 30,000 or 40,000. It will be possible for us to do something that is appropriate to the needs of the county and that they can afford.

“I think everybody looking on last year, not least Waterford people, would have been disappointed that they weren’t able to play at home. I think some of the other things that happened over the course of the summer about the choice of venues for matches would have given everybody pause for thought to think that maybe there’s a different way to go about, not just Waterford, but venues in general.”


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Fintan O'Toole

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