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11th Feb 2024

“The investment in stadiums has been totally mis-managed by the GAA in the last 20 years.” – Donal Óg Cusack

Niall McIntyre

Donal Óg Cusack has said that there are way too many stadiums in the GAA which he feels takes away from the development of the game.

In something of an extraordinary rant on RTÉ’s Saturday GAA Live coverage of Cork and Kilkenny, Óg Cusack criticised the GAA, its director general Tom Ryan and indeed the Cork county board over their handling of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh re-development project.

Having begun in 2015, the project significantly over-shot its budget to the extent that it now saddles the Cork county board with a debt of around €30 million.

Standing on the pitch in question, surrounded by its bright lights and high stands, Donal Óg Cusack questioned the need for it all.

“There’s so much that could be said about the stadium,” he told Joanne Cantwell.

“Of course it’s very presentable tonight, the field is looking great, but in reality though, there’s a huge millstone been left around Cork’s neck.

“We’re talking €30m. How much has gone into the stadium, will we ever know how much was actually spent on it?”

Tom Ryan had said in his annual report this Páirc Uí Chaoimh project ‘doesn’t look like necessarily a bad outcome,’ but Óg Cusack feels quite the opposite.

“You can’t tell me that’s not going to impact on Cork players in the future. Pat Ryan and John Cleary aren’t going to come out and say it, but it will impact on them.

“I think it calls into question a bigger issue with the GAA. You have to look at the amount of stadiums that we have.

“Has anyone ever done an occupancy analysis on it?

“We have way too many stadiums, we’re investing loads of money in stadiums and there’s loads of proposals.

“Tom Ryan is on about the €40 million that’s going into the inter-county game as if it’s going into the players’ pockets,” said the former Cork goalkeeper.

“But how much are the players getting out of that?

“They’re getting €7 million in terms of expenses. But it’s been presented as if it’s almost like this is all going to the players. But you link the money that’s being invested in stadiums, who’s going to pay back for the stadiums, it’s the players.”

While acknowledging that Cork county board must also take their share of the blame, Cusack feels the GAA need to come out and take responsibility as well.

“When is the GAA going to take responsibility? They’re the people that have driven all of this.

“It was the GAA that decided to rebuild Croke Park, it was the GAA that decided to put the names on the jerseys, it was the GAA that decided to sell the television rights.

“It would remind you of the Tories in the UK, blame everyone else and blaming the immigrants for their mistakes.

“When are we going to see Tom Ryan with a report and saying ‘I’m taking responsibility for this and I’m taking responsibility for this stadium’?

“The GAA and Croke Park are every bit as responsible as Cork for the debt that is here. They all approved it.

“Tom Ryan is finance director since 2007. All of these proposals, where Cork told them whoppers in terms of what this stadium was going to pay back. One of those whoppers being that this was going to be a centre of excellence.

“While I say this is a nice stadium to come tonight to watch a game, it’s like going into some couple’s home where they’ve got a nice front room, but they’ve got no dinner on the table.

“Because you can’t tell me that this isn’t going to impact Cork players into the future.

“The investment in stadiums has been totally mis-managed by the GAA in the last 20 years.”

“And there’s nobody excusing Cork either, there was governance in this stadium that wouldn’t make nero blush.”

The fireworks weren’t over there, with Tyrrell and Donal Óg getting getting into it soon after, as you’ll see below.

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Cork GAA