By John Connolly firstname.lastname@example.org
A new era is on the cards for Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada as planning permission for an ambitious €1.7 million stand at the Carrick-on-Shannon venue have been lodged by the Leitrim GAA County Board recently.
An application for planning permission for the 2,600 seater covered stand, which will include dressing rooms, media and VIP facilities, a warm-up area, was lodged on February 4, with Leitrim County Council.
Speaking to the Observer last week, Joe Flynn of the Pairc Sean Committee said “The facilities in Pairc Sean as they stand are not acceptable for today’s games. They were more than adequate when the grounds were opened in 1964 but Pairc Sean is now the only County grounds in the country without covered, seated accommodation.
“The whole image of a county is reflected in the facilities made available for the playing of its games. Inter-county players are coming from venues such as Salthill, Portlaoise and Croke Park where top class facilities are easily available.
“Years ago, panels had just 21 players but now it is up to 30 with a whole back-up team of selectors, analysts, ball boys, physiotherapists, doctors, etc. Teams are not happy unless such facilities exist,” said Joe.
The demand of quality facilities is not limited to players, according to Joe. “There is an expectation among patrons that such facilities be available. If we don’t update our facilities, we will not attract major games and there will be a downward attendance at our games.
“Patrons are prepared to pay extra for that bit of comfort - just look at the game in Enniskillen where the majority of the crowd paid the extra €2 to be in the stand.”
The lack of a covered stand has meant that big games have not been allocated to the Carrick venue despite its ideal location on the N4 and the Dublin-Sligo line. The new stand, along with the proposed addition of TV compatible floodlighting, could see a great boost to the local economy.
“There are two types of floodlighting,” said Joe. “There is a type that games can be played under and there is a type which is needed for television coverage. Croke Park is looking for two venues in each Province and Pairc Sean is certainly one of the venues proposed.
“Its location on the Dublin to Sligo Rail corridor and the N4 will lead to Croke Park to supporting the choice of Pairc Sean as one of the two Connacht venues,” said Joe, who added that €1 million has been made available for the provision of floodlights and the upgrading of playing surfaces.
The proposed covered stand will run half the length of the field, replacing the existing dressing rooms and press box area. The stand will not reduce the overall 15,000 capacity of the Carrick venue.
The stand will include four dressing rooms, two of which are suitable for Ladies team. A warm-up area, physio’s room, medical room, event controllers room, press & radio facilities, public toilets, referee’s room, meeting room and kitchens are all included in the ambitious plans.
Naturally enough, such a project will mean a huge financial undertaking for Leitrim GAA and comes at a times when the County Board have already spent €230,000 on acquiring land for training facilities in Annaduff.
“There is an estimated cost of €1.7 million, which includes floodlighting. The Park Committee have applied for a grant from the National Lottery and it has the full support of the provincial and national GAA.
“With the County Board fully committed to the training facilities project and the Pairc Sean project, it is not within the resources of the County Board to go ahead without substantial grant allocations,” said Joe.
“If there are no objections to our application, we hope to start work immediately but we will not start without a successful Lottery application. It is classified as a major project by the National Lottery and we will be seeking to generate the support of our politicians.
“Once planning permission is approved, a Finance committee will be formed to look for other possible fundraising and marketing initiatives. The committee will also have to generate local funding and hopefully, there will be a trickle down of funding from Croke Park,” said Joe.
A decision by Leitrim County Council on whether to grant planning permission for the new stand will be made by Friday, April 1, with the closing date for any objections Friday, March 11.