Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has today announced the planning approval for Casement Park’s redevelopment has been granted.
Earlier today the Minister signed off on plans for the new stadium on the same site as the old one, which has been lying dorment for eight years now.
Ms Mallon said it was “an historic day for the GAA in Ulster and for Gaels across our island”.
“Last October I announced my intention to grant planning approval and I am delighted that all the statutory processes have now been completed to make that decision official and allow the Ulster Council of the GAA to proceed with their development plans.
“This has been a long and complex process, predating my time as minister, however we must now move forward and see progress on the ground, progress that will bring many sporting, social and economic benefits not just to west Belfast but right across the city and beyond.
“This will be fantastic news for the GAA family across Ulster and Ireland, particularly with the Ulster Final taking place this Sunday.
“Here’s to an exciting Ulster final and many memorable games to come in a new state-of-the-art stadium in Casement, now that the GAA is to finally have the home it deserves in Ulster.”
The news gives some hope for Antrim Gaels who have seen their dreams of a new Casement dashed on many occassions along the way. Knowing the history of the project there will be many who will have serious doubts about the news but hopefully it will at last be a step in the right direction.
THE ANTRIM management had to face what many club teams are also confronting over the past couple of weeks with four players at short notice indicating that contact with COVID meant that they had to withdraw from the panel for the opening round of the All-Ireland Intermediate championship against Kilkenny on Sunday in Dunloy.
Not only did four players come into the team, but there was also a number of positional switches. In that context, it was unsurprising that the team turned in a patchy enough performance before a late goal from Katie Carey clinched victory.
Introduced as a sub in the 35th minute Carey (née McAleese) pulled away as Cáitrín Dobbin took a pass from Ciara Laverty, outpaced her player, and headed for goal. The full-back left Katie to cut out the danger, but Cáitrín cleverly played a stick pass across the goals leaving the former county captain with a tap in goal.
Dobbin also conjured up the opening goal just before half time when Antrim had fallen into a rut and conceded five points in a row to Kilkenny, a series of scores that left the visitors 0-9 to 0-5 ahead.
Caoimhe Conlon delivered out of defence and Dobbin ran clear, once again unselfishly off-loading for Róisín McCormick to tap home.
When they arrived, both goals were badly needed, the first to stop the rot that had set in, and the second to kill off the opposition.
Antrim started well with points from Maeve Kelly, Áine Magill and Nicole O’Neill inside the opening six minutes. Magill, getting her first start after a Player of the Match performance last Sunday in the Ulster Minor final, added another point in the 9th minute to put her side 0-4 to 0-2 ahead, but already the wayward shooting was having an impact.
In total Antrim shot 18 wides, nine in each half and those wides also seemed to disrupt the rhythm we have come to expect of a composed team.
As Antrim faltered, Kilkenny took advantage and grew into the game. When they hit those five unanswered points from the 22nd to 29th minutes to go into a 0-9 to 0-5 lead they probably deserved, a shock result was very much on the cards.
But the goal from McCormick before the break, and her point on the restart levelled the game.
Áine Magill, having a brilliant first start for the seniors, also pointed before Ciara O’Keefe won a penalty in the 42nd minute. Sophie O’Dwyer hit the net to make it 1-9 to 1-7 for the visitors who also passed up on several relatively easy scoring opportunities during that third quarter.
Magill, with a brilliant mazy run, fired over her fourth point in response and McCormick levelled the game again ahead of the second water-break.
Caitrín Dobbin’s pace then opened up Kilkenny and the Loughgiel flyer scored two points, although each time Kilkenny responded.
Róisín McCormick from a free had just put her team ahead when Dobbin drew the defence and found Katie Carey for the match clinching goal.
Kilkenny pushed hard to rescue the game but Antrim were now in control and held on for an opening win.
Positives? There were a few. The return from injury of both Chloe Drain and Maeve Connolly, the exuberance of debutante Áine Magill and Katie Carey’s cameo performance will all add to the competition for places in the team.
But if Antrim have aspirations of winning the title they would want a more composed overall display on home soil.
In the other game in Antrim’s group a goal from Kate Wall in the first half saw Cork go on to comfortably beat Kildare by 1-15 to 0-7.
Antrim travel to Cork this Saturday in Round Two, while Kilkenny host Kildare.
ANTRIM were one of the seeded teams for the championship draw last month and they are strongly tipped to feature at the knock-out stage for the first time in quite a few years.
The Saffrons have done little wrong since the new management team of Paul McKillen, Jim McKernan and Elaine Dowds came in at the start of last year. Indeed since then only one team, Down, has beaten them, albeit in three finals.
However after a heavy enough defeat in the final of this competition last December, Antrim were able to make Down earn both their titles this season and that has raised a lot of optimism in the county.
They are genuine contenders for the Intermediate title, but their opening game is a banana skin – against reserve team from Kilkenny and it is always difficult to gauge what they will bring to the table.
While the Antrim defence has been forced into a series of changes over the past couple of months, the forward line seems to have improved with every outing. It could be a high scoring game, but home venue should favour the Saffrons.
Kildare and Cork meet in the same group and it will be a big surprise if Cork don’t enter next week’s head to head with Antrim unbeaten.
Sunday’s Ulster minor final in Edendork had everything, from breath-taking saves, top class scores at both ends, three red cards, superb individual performances and an exciting finale as Derry came back from six points down at the second water-break.
In the end however Áine Magill turned the tide with three minutes to go when she converted a 45 and Monique O’Boyle added another for Antrim who held out to win back the title Derry took from them in Owenbeg last March just before Covid hit.
The Saffrons got off to a fine start with two points from Evanne Martin and when captain Fionnuala Kelly raced through for a goal in the 9th minute they were 1-4 to 0-1 ahead.
Derry hit back with three points in a row from Anna Rafferty, Amy Lennon and a free from Rachel Downey, but after the water-break Áine Magill pushed Antrim into a five point lead with two scores in quick succession.
Magill added a second goal in the 25th minute when she latched on to a pass from midfield partner Fionnuala Kelly and found the net. Despite late points from Shannon O’Neill and a Downey free, Derry were still trailing by six at the interval.
The teams split the next six points which brought them up to the second water break although Derry could have closed the gap with Orla Donnelly pulling off a point blank save from sub Anna McDaid before a clash between Brid Magill and Blanaid McLaughlin resulted in red cards for both players.
That actually helped Derry in their dramatic comeback with Antrim now open at the back. Three points from Amy Lennon and another from Hannah Scullion in between a pair of frees from Rachel Downey brought the teams level with the momentum all in Derry’s favour.
Donnelly pulled off two more top class saves before Áine Magill lifted the siege with a point from a 45. Monique O’Boyle added a second and although Downey closed the gap to the minimum with her fifth free, time ran out on Derry.
Antrim : Orla Donnelly, Ailbhe Kane, Bríd Magill, Lara Haughey, Orla McIlroy, Fay McIntosh, Elen McIntosh, Áine Magill 1-7, 4 frees, Fionnuala Kelly 1-1, Evanne Martin 0-2, Cassie McArthur 0-1, Caoimhe McMullan, Cara Connolly, Monique O Boyle 0-1, Eva Graham
Subs: Síne Woodhouse for E Graham (32), Tara McDonnell for O McIlroy (47).