Waterford will have the geographically longest path to take to Croke Park if they’re to end a 59-year-wait for All-Ireland hurling glory this summer.
The unsurprising announcement, which was officially made on Friday last, stated that Walsh Park is not in a position to host two Munster Senior Hurling Championship matches this summer “due to Health and Safety concerns and a reduction to capacity to approximately 8,000”.
Instead, Waterford’s ‘home’ matches will be played at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, June 3rd (the Cork Marathon is being held that same day) while the Deisemen’s clash with Cork will be staged at Semple Stadium a fortnight later on June 17th.
The statement added: “The option to play the game in Thurles or Nowlan Park could not be considered under the Regulations as a change from a Home venue can only be to a Neutral venue within the Province.” In an impassioned interview with Gavin Whelan aired on WLR’s ‘On The Ball’ last Saturday, County Board Chairman Paddy Joe Ryan began by revealing that the western boundary wall at Walsh Park is to be removed this week, leaving the Board with no option but to look elsewhere for a host venue.
“We wanted to play at Walsh Park but I would like to apologise to our supporters,” he stated. “We understand it’s hard for people to go to matches but we’re hoping they’ll stay with us this year. I’d just like to say that there’s great times ahead for Waterford GAA and when Walsh Park will be developed, we’ll have a super little stadium there despite of a lot of knockers…I’ve heard a lot of it going on over the last couple of days. We’ll respond to all those criticisms in due course. We’ve dealt with it through our clubs, we’ve produced a plan to our clubs, we’ve produced a repayment plan to our clubs, our clubs have seen everything that we’re doing. We as a Board are answerable to our clubs number one, and that’s the way we’ve done this, always…and there are other stakeholders when it comes to Walsh Park. There are our neighbours down there and the County Board will talk to our neighbours as soon we are ready to talk, as soon as we have the plans finalised – that should be very soon. We want to build up a very good relationship with our neighbours because the people around Walsh Park, in all the various housing estates near Walsh Park, they need to be looked after as well and the County Board will do everything they possibly can to ensure that they’re not discomforted in any way.”
The Chairman claimed the criticism that has been directed by “some of our own” at the County Board in recent weeks was more disappointing than Walsh Park not being up to Championship scratch for this summer. Citing a suggestion that the main county ground has suffered from 20 years of neglect, Paddy Joe Ryan replied: “I’ve been there (at Board level) for 23 years. When I came in, Fraher Field was just developed and Walsh Park was almost redeveloped. All those things had to be paid for; we’ve had lots of debts in our county. Previous to that, in fairness to the people in the 90s, previous to that we had no facilities in Dungarvan or Walsh Park. Now, they mightn’t be up to scratch but I’m very proud of Dungarvan with its stand, lights, new dressing rooms and its whole environs (including the) training field. I’m very, very proud of it.”
For Full Text of This Story See Page 5 of This Week’s Munster Express Newspaper