GAA President Aoghan Ó Fearghail at St Joseph's Boys NS Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

GAA President Aoghán Ó Fearghail at St Joseph’s Boys NS Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher Northern Standard Thursday 21st May p.2

Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail says the Association is not downgrading St Tiarnach’s Park in Clones, while at the same time seeking to redevelop Casement Park in Belfast. During a visit to Carrickmacross on Monday (18th May), the GAA President told the Northern Standard Clones had nothing to fear from Casement. He said Clones (where the Ulster Final has traditionally been played) provided a very vital infrastructure for the GAA over the years. He said the GAA in Ulster was also committed to developing Casement. But the planned development of a 38,000 capacity arena was stalled in December following a court case in Belfast. Planning permission for the expansion of the stadium was denied by the High Court after an objection from a local residents’ group They raised concerns about what kind of impact the larger crowds would have on the area. The GAA President said the Association always respected rules and decisions and would await the outcome of any further planning enquiries. He pointed to the situation at Kingspan Breffni Park, where Cavan take on Monaghan on Sunday in the Ulster Championship. He said ten years ago some people thought the stadium had reached the end of its existence as a GAA venue, but now after redevelopment it was one of the finest such stadiums in the country.


New Casement Park Aerial View  Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

New Casement Park Aerial View Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

It was to be the GAA’s showcase in Ulster: a completely revamped £77m stadium at Casement Park in West Belfast that would seat 38,000 fans. It would take over from Páirc Naomh Tiarnach in the border town of Clones in County Monaghan as the venue for Ulster football finals. Now a judge at the High Court in Belfast has found that the planning application approved by the North’s Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan was “irretrievably flawed“.

The judicial review that lasted thirteen days heard that defects were also identified in the environmental survey, with no assessment of the impact on local residents of extra stadium facilities such as conference suites, bars, restaurants and car parking. A further hearing is expected later this week to decide the final outcome of the case.

Environment Minister Mark H.Durkan announces approval for project, December 2013  Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

Environment Minister Mark H.Durkan announces approval for project, December 2013 Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

The new stadium was set to be included in the list of GAA venues to be used as one of the Ireland’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Hugo McNeill, the chairman of the bid, last month said that the Casement Park upgrade was “crucial” to the Northern Ireland component of its proposal.

Chairman of the Casement Park Project Board, Tom Daly, said they were “deeply disappointed” by the decision. “The proposed redevelopment of Casement Park would have provided the opportunity of a world class provincial stadium for the GAA and the broader community in the heart of Belfast. It would also have provided much needed economic and social benefits to west Belfast and beyond, including financial investment, new jobs, apprenticeships and community projects. Over the coming weeks we will reflect on this decision and consider what the next steps are for Casement Park”, he said.

The redevelopment of Casement Park is part of the Northern Ireland Executive’s policy to upgrade the three major sports grounds in Belfast – soccer’s Windsor Park, Ulster Rugby’s ground at Ravenhill and the GAA stadium at Casement. Three new stands have been constructed at Ravenhill. Work is ongoing on modernising Windsor Park, the home of Irish League club Linfield and the Northern Ireland international team.

I note that former Clones resident Darach MacDonald says he is not going to gloat about this outcome, which he has predicted several times to general disbelief. However, he thinks somebody needs to explain, and quickly, how a planning process described as ‘irretrievably flawed’ was presented to GAA fans and the general public as a fait accompli. From the outset, this was a politically tainted and contrived vanity project to siphon off public funds on a sectarian pretext for an inappropriate development in a place where it was not wanted, he said. 

Ulster Final Clones July 2013 Monaghan v Donegal  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Ulster Final Clones July 2013 Monaghan v Donegal Photo: © Michael Fisher

Meanwhile, the existing venue for the Ulster Football Final, the provincial showpiece for the sport, has been relegated to a state of neglect pending redundancy (without floodlights or other investment since the early 1990s), disparaged and dismissed by those who pursued their ‘Field of Dreams’. As a life-long supporters of Gaelic games, Darach says he is “disgusted and impatient for answers”.


Last minute Fearghal McMahon penalty helps Monaghan Minors to Ulster title victory over Tyrone

Last minute Fearghal McMahon penalty helps Monaghan Minors to Ulster title victory over Tyrone

MONAGHAN 4-10 TYRONE 2-14 (Minor)

MONAGHAN 0-13 DONEGAL 0-07 (Senior)  Páirc Thiarnaigh Naofa, Cluain Eois

MONAGHAN supporters have been a long time waiting for an Ulster senior title: 25 years, in fact. Having waited so long it was nice to be able to claim a double at Clones, added to a fourth-in-a-row Ulster final victory by the ladies last weekend against Tyrone. It was very appropriate that having introduced the members of the 1988 Monaghan team to the crowd at half-time, the seniors went on to beat the current All-Ireland champions Donegal and take the Anglo-Celt Cup. It was even more special because two hours earlier the Monaghan minors had put in a fantastic finish to win the title for the county for the first time in 68 years.

Monaghan Minors celebrate Ulster title with lap of honour at Clones

Monaghan Minors celebrate Ulster title with lap of honour at Clones

1945 was the last occasion when Monaghan minors took what was only their third Ulster title. A man in the seat beside me in the Pat McGrane stand remarked that one of the stars of that side was from his parish in Sutton Dublin, namely Mackie Moyna from Scotstown, twin brother of Tommy. Mackie’s wife Margery (Boylan), a former teacher also from Scotstown, died recently. Rest in peace.

UPDATE: Since writing the blog yesterday, I have listened back to the end of the minor game commentary on Northern Sound by an almost hoarse Sean McCaffery. He lists the names of the victorious 1945 side and among them was Tommy Moyna, but not Mackie, so my informant was mistaken. However I did find one report on the Hogan Stand website when the twins received Monaghan GAA Hall of Fame awards in 1993. It explained how Mackie made an unregistered appearance in a Monaghan minor jersey at Croke Park in the all-Ireland semi-final in 1945 against Leitrim!

A sea of colour: Fermanagh Street, Clones

A sea of colour: Fermanagh Street, Clones

As usual, the atmosphere in Clones in the build-up to the two finals was tremendous: a sea of colour all along Fermanagh Street. Family groups that travelled from Donegal or further afield finding a suitable green patch on which to have a picnic. Others packing into the several pubs and debating the chances of their team. How long more the Ulster Council of the GAA will keep the final at Clones is another matter; hopefully this will not be the last time Monaghan win an Ulster senior title at Clones. The excellent match programme (€5/£5) contained an article about the planned redevelopment of Casement Park in Belfast, which has already been upgraded with floodlights. As someone who collects sports programmes, I believe this one will be in demand in years to come.

I had listened to some of the first half of the minor match on the car radio. When I took my seat, Monaghan were trailing by five points and the chance of a victory seemed to have slipped away. But a penalty (a bit fortunate) in the closing moments of the game was slotted home by Fearghal McMahon, giving them a single point advantage. It was followed by a Donal Meegan point in injury time, thus ensuring a Farney victory 4-10 to 2-14. Tyrone had led 1-9 to 2-1 at the break.

St Michael's Band Enniskillen prepare for pre-final parade

St Michael’s Band Enniskillen prepare for pre-final parade

The key to Monaghan’s victory in the senior match was the way they controlled Donegal right from the throw-in. They were four points up within nine minutes. Donegal’s opening score came in the 31st minute through a Colm McFadden free, followed by a Frank McGlynn point in injury time, making it 0-5 to 0-2 in favour of Monaghan at the break. The Farneymen were soon on the scoreboard again in the second half, through Kieran Hughes. Monaghan continued to dominate and were the better team throughout. Nice to see Tomás Freeman coming on as a substitute at the end and contributing an insurance point.

Ulster senior champions 2013: Monaghan Picture: RTE Sport

Ulster senior champions 2013: Monaghan Picture: RTE Sport

The final score 0-13 to 0-07 for the home side. Then it was time for a massive celebration with thousands among the crowd of 31,914 invading the pitch to join the excitement as the Anglo-Celt cup was presented by the President of the Ulster Council, Ballybay man Martin McAviney, to the Monaghan captain Owen Lennon. Watching the proceedings was the GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy, another  proud Monaghan man! Former GAA President Sean McCague from Scotstown who managed the winning 1988 county team was also there, as were many other Monaghan personalities including Big Tom McBride who played on Saturday night at a country music festival in Monaghan town.