Progress 'positive' on GAA plans to acquire Clonliffe College site
Project still requires Vatican and Central Council approval
Peter McKenna: “That’s the outline of the scheme but until we get a green light from the Vatican, the Archbishop and Ard Comhairle it is still a dream.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna has said “progress has been positive” on the proposed acquisition of 38 acres at Clonliffe College, adjacent to the stadium, as first announced last October by the Archdiocese of Dublin.
The project still requires approval of both the Vatican and the GAA’s Central Council, to whom the proposal has not been officially presented.
Reference to the matter appears in the annual stadium accounts as they are material to the future development of the company.
“These are just outline plans,” said McKenna at the unveiling of the financial report for the stadium on Wednesday in Croke Park, “that we thought were important to put into the accounts because they could be of significance this year. Archbishop Martin would have mentioned at a press conference late in 2018 that he was in discussions with ourselves about selling Clonliffe College.
“We’ve had ongoing discussions but we don’t have any deal yet. That would require both Vatican approval and Ard Comhairle approval and we haven’t even taken it to Ard Comhairle yet so by mentioning it there we’re flagging that it may happen in the year 2019 and if it did, the type of plans we have for the area would include GAA pitches, a hotel to support the conference business here.”
In the annual report, it is stated that the plan for the hotel is “to complement a proposed Cusack Stand redevelopment” and that it will also “importantly (enter) into a partnership with a developer to deliver substantial social and affordable housing”.
“That’s the outline of the scheme but until we get a green light from the Vatican, the Archbishop and Ard Comhairle it is still a dream,” added McKenna.
The stadium enjoyed a good year with revenue up by one per cent and pre-tax profit of €11,000,000. It was able to announce a €500,000 increase in the grant to Croke Park – to €8,000,000 – bringing the total over the eight-figure mark to €107,000,000 since the transfers began in 2006.
McKenna also said that the grass farm in Naul, north county Dublin, will be able to supply pitch surfaces later this year.
“Transportation and risk – so, €100- to €150,000 or that order of magnitude,” he said in answer to a question on what the initiative’s advantages would be.
He said he believed the pitch surface at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork would be capable of hosting championship matches this summer. The ground has been temporarily shut because of damage to the surface over last weekend’s league double-bill.
“That will be fine because what’s wrong with the pitch is instability in the upper root zones. It’s moving. Once the weather gets good and the grass starts to grow, the roots will actually hold it and will perform very well and that’s what you would have seen during the summer. With good growth, the pitch is fine. But you need something that’s going to be good for 12 months of the year, not just for a short summer period.”
He also defended the Croke Park playing surface against criticism from team managers, notably Jim Gavin, who he says he tried to contact after the Dublin manager’s comments on the staging of two Taylor Swift concerts the week before last year’s Leinster football final.
“I stand over it from a technical point of view,” said McKenna. “We test that pitch, all the metrics of it. Managers need to deflect from other conversations, so it is easy to say that ‘I didn’t like this or whatever’.”
Asked had he communicated with Gavin he said: “I have tried several times but he is a very busy man. I welcome anyone making comment because it helps us raise our game but I think if you do make criticism, it is nice to find out exactly what your issues were and let us respond.”