Cork GAA must continue to try to establish Páirc Uí Chaoimh as a premier concert venue in the future, to maximize those concerts falling in what he calls ‘game season’ then they would need to be open to that too, but not, he suggested ahead, at the expense of “our teams being thrown off balance”.
“Donovan spoke after Munster GAA re-set Páirc Uí Rinn as the venue for the Cork Province semi-final against Kerry tomorrow week.
It had originally been set for Páirc Uí Rinn as Páirc Uí Chaoimh was unavailable due to the impact of Ed Sheeran’s two concerts that weekend on the pitch and required a six-week recovery period.
But in March Munster moved the game to Killarney’s Fitzgerald Stadium over concerns that a capacity of around 11,000 would not meet requirements, compared to the 15,000 originally planned. This was met with a stern response from Cork players and management, who insisted they would only play at Páirc Uí Rinn.
A venue clause also emerged in the home-away rules between the districts, which provided that only Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Fitzgerald Stadium could be used.
That seemed to be holding up play at Killarney until last week when Kerry put that aside and said they were open to playing at Páirc Uí Rinn for this year only. Munster approved this on Monday evening, although original capacity concerns still remain.
O’Donovan said concerts for Páirc Uí Chaoimh, who owed €30m in debt two years ago, according to the GAA’s annual report, were a necessity and booking Sheeran before the Munster draws were announced was a risk they had to take.
“It was a risk worth taking and remembering that we haven’t had an event here, we haven’t had a concert in the last two years. Rod Stewart three years ago is the last,” he said.
“We’ve been making losses at the stadium annually, so we need to establish it as a regular concert venue.
“We took a risk coming into the game season and we may do so again in the future. But we can do it without any risk – with a specific stage if we know the dates of the game and see a window where a concert can come in. So we’re not denying that we’ll have another concert in the month of May, but I don’t see our teams getting upset.
O’Donovan said the Sheeran concerts were booked for Páirc Uí Chaoimh “nine to 12 months ago”. By then the split season had been passed in Congress but the Munster draws had not yet been made.
“The awareness was there. We have discussed these weeks extensively, these dates. The Munster Football Championship draw had not yet been made, the hurling format is standard so you will know from year to year.
The source of the financial reward, he said, is an obligation to generate revenue.
“Our goal is to maximize commercial revenue. It sounds like an easy line to draw, but it’s actually true. You know that’s what happens with the profits from Croke Park, they go back into the games. We are no different. You can accuse us of cynicism, that’s not the root.
“Debt notwithstanding, it is a €100m asset that our clubs have invested in hoping it would generate commercial revenue to reinvest in our games. Therefore it was newly developed. That’s where our profits go. Just like Croke Park. We have no shareholders, we don’t pay dividends. That was the thinking behind the redesign, to generate revenue that goes back into our games. This is still in accordance with this principle. When you go into the game season, conflicts can arise.
“In this case,” he said, “a unique set of circumstances that led to a confluence of events that meant we ended up where we ended up last month.”
Under the circumstances, the set design for the Sheeran concerts that required a major pitch overhaul was not a full season as in the case of Croke Park, but a “stitched pitch”.
“It’s like a giant sewing machine stitching together synthetic fibers that make up five percent of the grass. You grind down and come back up and you see two small blades of grass that are a long stretch of synthetic fibers. We’re going to scrape the top two inches of the pitch, we’ll touch up the synthetic fibers and add a new pitch within six weeks,” explained O’Donovan.
For future concerts later in the summer, Elton John in July and Westlife in August, the repair work won’t be nearly as disruptive.
While Westlife is a formal transmission of Covid, Ed Sheeran and Elton John were more of a “residue” from touring artists, he explained. But to be considered a premier concert venue, Cork and Páirc Uí Chaoimh cannot narrow their windows.
Munster is yet to confirm what the capacity for Páirc Uí Rinn will be – but the hope is that it will be between 11,000 and 12,000
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/kevin-odonovan-concerts-can-help-maximise-pairc-ui-chaoimhs-potential-41598482.html Kevin O’Donovan: Concerts can help maximize Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s potential