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Warks GAA ‘close to a deal’ for ‘exciting’ redevelopment of Páirc na hÉireann

Warwickshire GAA close to a deal for exciting redevelopment of Páirc na hÉireann
Páirc na hÉireann. Photo: Damian Dolan

By Annie Driver

Warwickshire county board chairperson Mark McLoughlin says plans are close to being finalised for the redevelopment of the county ground at Páirc na hÉireann in Solihull, Birmingham.

Warwickshire GAA has been locked in discussions for more than two years with Highways England, Warwickshire Council and Croke Park over proposed plans for a £282m relief road off the junction of the M42, by the National Exhibition Centre, which would run directly through Páirc na hÉireann.

McLoughlin was speaking after being re-appointed chair for a fifth term at last week’s Convention.

He told the Irish World: “We’re close to an agreement and we are waiting on Croke Park for approval.

“We need more work on community use to allow Highways England to sign off on what will be an exciting and opportunistic time in Warwickshire.

“If the facility is delivered as we have seen it, it will equate to one of the best UK facilities in and outside the Island of Ireland.”

Páirc na hÉireann
Members of the 2020 Warwickshire County Board: Back row (L/R): Martin Grogan, Paddy Hoey, Sean Davies, Shay Hartnett. Front row (R/L) Michael Walker, Mark Mcloughlin, Michael Collins, Aiden Glynn. Photo: Annie Driver

He added: “Although disappointed we are in this position, most of our objectives have been achieved with three pitches and facilities fitting of the 21st Century.

“We are very close to a deal and we will work hard to ensure it is delivered.”

While no exact timescale has been confirmed, McLoughlin confirmed to delegates that the Road Committee and land advisor have delivered a package which has gone to Croke Park. They are currently waiting on the finance committee to sign off on a deal.

Highways England has been in discussion with Warwickshire GAA over plans for the relief road since “early 2017”, but in September 2018 Warwickshire accused them of performing a “complete U-turn” on its promise to provide a new state-of-art facility at a nearby location.

Highways England’s revised plan put forward three new proposals, but these were called “unacceptable” by Warwickshire secretary Michael Collins.

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The exact details of the new agreement have not been disclosed, but the new facility will include eight stand-alone dressing rooms, two county sized dressing rooms and three pitches.

Warwickshire GAA close to a deal for exciting redevelopment of Páirc na hÉireann
Páirc na hÉireann

The development will primarily be a “GAA facility putting Gaels first to use for training and games” in a scheme which will “last generations”.

The facilities will also be available to the wider community with an objective to “target Irish like-minded sport and organisations”.

McLoughlin added: “Highways England have given us a blank canvas for sport – we can fill this with more organisations.”

The recent appointment of Warwickshire Community Development Administrator Dermot Thornton will be instrumental to those development plans.

Thornton will be going into primary and secondary schools in the coming weeks and making links with schools and other organisations.

McLoughlin also used his chairperson’s address to praise county football champions Sean McDermott’s and he believes Warwickshire GAA is on the “cusp of an All-Britain Championship”.

Warwickshire GAA close to a deal for exciting redevelopment of Páirc na hÉireann
Birmingham’s John Mitchel’s in action against Fullen Gaels in the All-Britain hurling final. Photo: Damian Dolan

He also congratulated John Mitchels hurlers who retained their title as All-Britain champions.

McLoughlin also applauded the efforts of both the football and hurling county teams, particularly the management and team involved in the game against Kilkenny.

He also strongly urged managers to undertake refereeing courses in the New Year.

While there are big changes ahead, the committee remained the same. Paddy Hoey retained his position after it went to vote and received 15 votes to Keith Sweeney’s (Sean McDermott’s) nine votes.

2020 Warwickshire County Board Officers:
President: Aiden Flynn (O’Rahilly’s)
Chairperson: Mark McLoughlin (John Mitchels)
Vice Chairperson: Paddy Hoey (Roger Casement’s)
Secretary: Michael Collins (John Mitchels)
Assistant Secretary: Sean Davies (St. Brendan’s)
Treasurer: Michael Walker (Naomh Padraig)
Assistant Treasurer: Martin Grogan (Roger Casement’s)
Public Relations Officer: Tara Tolan (St. Brendan’s)
Delegates to Provincial Council: Michael Walker (O’Rahilly’s) and Shay Hartnett (Roger Casement’s)
Delegates to Provincial Convention: Sean Davies (St. Brendan’s) and John Fallon (Roger Casement’s)
Delegate to Congress: Martin Grogan (Roger Casements) and Michael Walker (Naomh Padraig)
Development Officer: Dermot Thornton
Children’s Officer: Julie Duffy (John Mitchels)

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