Here we go again, another attempt to make the Gaelic pitch in Drogheda worthy of the name of county grounds. Plans for the latest project are at large, and have been given clubs’ backing.
Euphoria reigned as the proposed new stadium at DkIT moved from the planning stage to becoming a reality. Drogheda held its prominence, staging all the big games, to the exclusion of St Brigid’s Park, Haggardstown and the forgotten venue of Louth football, Ardee; but soon we would be able to stage games likely to attract more than three or four thousand people and not be the subject of ridicule. Or, so we thought.
It’s not clear what exactly caused the the DkIT dream to become nothing more than a ship that passed in the night; there’s been a lot of Dail-speak around, and as we all know, that can be very difficult to decipher. But, as many would see it, a wonderful opportunity has been lost.
Now it’s back to Boyneside to see if grassy banks can be turned to concrete and a stand made bigger, allowing for the grounds’ capacity to be increased to 7,000. (The DkIT project would have accommodated almost twice that number, with seating for 4,000.)
The first of three steps has been taken in the latest move – about the 250th, it seems like – to turn a Rip Van Winkle-like dream into a reality. Perhaps influenced by being told by chairman, Padraic O’Connor, that clubs wouldn’t have a further levy placed on them to help the Co Board make its contribution, delegates voted overwhelmingly to back the project at a recent meeting.
Now for the hard part. Croke Park, whose financial backing would be crucial to any project, have still to come on board; before they do, the issue over ownership rights will have to be resolved once and for all. This has been the kernel of the problem for quite some time, and trying to solve it has thwarted the very best efforts of successive Co Board chairmen, going back to when Frank Lynch filled the hot seat in the late 1970s.
It’s known as O’Rahilly’s pitch, but, seemingly, it’s not as simple as that. While the O’Rahilly’s name appears on the lease, along, it’s believed, with the Louth Co Board and Leinster Council, there’s a society in the background, perhaps similar to the Young Irelands Athletic Grounds Company Ltd, which had ownership of the county’s greatest-ever GAA venue, but where rugby and soccer were also played. It was this Company that actually sold the grounds to Halliday’s shoe factory in the late 1950s, thus robbing the county of what had been its spiritual home for years.
The O’Rahilly’s group is comprised of individual shareholders, as the YIAGC was, and it would seem it’s they who have been the undoing to the many past attempts to resolve the issue.
This should be the last-chance saloon for Drogheda. If agreement can’t be found this time, then eyes should be turned elsewhere – to Darver, perhaps, a venue wholly-owned by the Louth Co Board and ripe for development.