Paraic Fanning delighted with Walsh Park approval

So it’s three wins out of three in Division 1B and planning approval for Walsh Park is in the bag: as weeks go, it’s not been a bad one at all for Waterford’s senior hurlers, as well as the County Board. As the negative headlines around the rebuilt Páirc Uí Chaoimh mount, perhaps the prospect of a white elephant development at a site available only in mythology (better known as Twitter and Facebook) can be finally put to pasture. While the PR battle to win hearts and minds over the Walsh Park revamp was poorly conceived on the County Board’s behalf (no date for a promised press conference on the development project, let alone the press conference itself has been publicised anywhere), the rebuild plan was “the only show in town”.

Waterford's Jack Prendergast about to catch the sliothar despite the intentions of  Carlow's Martin Doyle. Photo by Sean Byrne

Waterford's Jack Prendergast about to catch the sliothar despite the intentions of Carlow's Martin Doyle. Photo by Sean Byrne

A prudent and sensible approach to the rebuilding of our principal GAA ground was the right way to go in this observer’s opinion.
A hyperbolic campaign regarding the stadium plan was never grounded in reality, nor was an alternative financial plan that made sense ever articulated. The idea of heaping debt onto the county’s clubs was not going to be seriously entertained at delegate level, nor should it be. Some of those crying it loudest have probably never been a club committee member and have almost certainly never attended a County Board meeting.
While I’ve no opposition whatsoever to a stadium being built at Carriganore at some stage in the future, such a ground would surely have to be a municipal facility. One suspects it may be decades before the GAA goes solo with another stadium project given the debt issues run up with both McHale Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh. With that in mind, Casement Park’s moss may grow even thicker still, alas. With the RSC clearly adequate for Waterford FC’s current needs (so too the FAI’s), and with Munster Rugby pleased to use the Kilbarry ground on occasion over the past decade, a Carriganore stadium would, given the composition of our other stadia, be under-utilised. A 25,000-plus ground would make no sense (consider the diminished ‘sold out’ signs at Thomond Park in recent years) unless something revolutionary materialises in terms of city and county-based sport. Making the most of what we have is the right thing to do.
One other thing regarding Carriganore: imagine trying to get in and out of several multi-storey car parks that would have to be build alongside an out of city ground? The Arena and Greenway car parks are already groaning to capacity at peak times.
No major stadium in any sport on this island has adequate adjoining car parking and while it’s clear that traffic management will have to be rigorously adhered to once the new Walsh Park opens, relocating the ground on the basis of parking was also a red herring. “It’s great that it’s going to happen,” said Deise manager Paraic Fanning following Saturday night’s win over Carlow in front of a paying gate totalling 2,478. “It’s going to be exciting times. We see others with their stadiums and we all know that we’ve a bit of work to do on that. I’d encourage everyone to get behind it now. There’s a lot of good things happening in hurling in Waterford. It’s great for the county.”
As things stand, the prospect of Waterford taking on both Clare and a white hot Limerick at Walsh Park in this summer’s Munster Championship has surely intensified? “I’m expecting that they’ll be in Waterford,” said Fanning. “I’m quietly confident on that. I’ve always said it, we deserve the same chance as everybody else to try and win our Championship games.”
Cognisant of the opposition levels they’ve encountered thus far, to see Waterford scoring goals aplenty and creating further green flag opportunities is nonetheless encouraging. “We’ve been focusing on that and we had one or two other chances there today,” said the Waterford boss, conscious that tougher tests lie ahead against both Dublin and Galway.
Waterford have gone about their initial 1B business with exactitude and diligence. Wins at this time of the year in the League’s second rung come with terms and conditions attached, but the ‘so far, so good’ status of the Deisemen, is not to be sniffed at.
Winning is the only currency that teams are measured by, and a win in Parnell Park on Sunday next might have a few more hurling observers taking note of the undoubted progress this remoulded group are making. And should they see off Galway in the final ‘regular league’ game of the first phase, that will really set the tongues a wagging ahead of the knock-out stages.