Vive la dif­fer­ence in sta­dium mark II

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - PÁIRC UÍ CHAOIMH SPECIAL - Michael Moyni­han

LIKE Barry Fitzger­ald’s horse and trap in The Quiet Man, a lot of cars will start mak­ing a long-ac­cus­tomed stop once again this week­end.

The long walk down un­der the trees by the river is back.

The steep de­scent out of Ballintem­ple is back.

The al­ter­na­tive ap­proach out of Black­rock vil­lage is back.

That’s be­cause the build­ing be­com­ing more and more vis­i­ble in those quick cross-river glances as you roll in from Tivoli, the stands and flood­lights ris­ing above the trees, is back.

As of this week­end Páirc Uí Chaoimh II is open for busi­ness.

Well, last Wed­nes­day night, strictly speak­ing.

And this week­end you have four coun­ties de­scend­ing on Cork for the All-Ireland se­nior hurl­ing quar­ter-fi­nals, a week­end of games to kick­start the new place, so lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion may be at a pre­mium. Still, no sec­ond acts in Amer­i­can lives, said F Scott Fitzger­ald; here an en­tire sta­dium emerges from the dust to pro­vide a venue for sec­ond, third and fourth acts.

Now that the venue is back af­ter a cou­ple of years’ re­mod­elling, it’s clear the dif­fer­ences aren’t cos­metic. Gone is the crum­bling stonework and the tired fa­cades, the treach­er­ous in­clines on the ter­race and the seat­ing cursed by ev­ery spec­ta­tor of non-Bilbo Bag­gins pro­por­tions. What’s re­placed it? A sta­dium for the 21st cen­tury. In this sup­ple­ment one of the key men sums up the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two sta­dia by point­ing to the 1,650 data points in the new venue, adding, “that’s 1,650 more data points than the old Páirc.”

The dif­fer­ence isn’t just tech­no­log­i­cal. The new sta­dium looks better, but given how low the bar was set by its pre­de­ces­sor, that’s a back­handed com­pli­ment.

Some­thing that’s been skil­fully re­tained is the old ‘bowl’ align­ment of stands and ter­races which made the old sta­dium so at­trac­tive to play­ers: de­spite the short­com­ings out­side the white­wash, there was al­ways a con­sen­sus among those on the field of play about the rock­ing at­mos­phere of a full Páirc, the waves of noise rolling down and re­ver­ber­at­ing around the play­ing area as a game moved to­wards the cru­cial stages. Now the old sta­dium is gone, will a cloud of nos­tal­gia de­scend over spec­ta­tors as they be­gin to fil­ter into the ground?

It’s only hu­man na­ture to look back through roset­inted glasses, af­ter all. Our guess is that that will run par­al­lel to the player ex­pe­ri­ence men­tioned above: just as the mem­ory of a cramped dress­ing-room re­cedes in favour of the fi­nal whis­tle in a county semi­fi­nal won against the odds, spec­ta­tors are likely to fo­cus on the shot of adren­a­line ex­pe­ri­enced as a cap­tain heaved sil­ver­ware into the sky un­der the shadow of the old stand.

On the grounds of novelty alone ev­ery county will be keen to have a run-out in the new house, though clearly sides in Mun­ster will be keen to ac­cli­ma­tise as quickly as pos­si­ble. That’s an even stronger im­per­a­tive for Cork teams and teams in Cork, to dis­tin­guish be­tween the two, with the for­mer anx­ious to create a win­ning tra­di­tion as quickly as they can in the sta­dium, and the lat­ter anx­ious to work out which goal is at the scor­ing end when it comes to lo­cal dis­putes.

KEEP an eye — or an ear, more likely — out for the quick flow­er­ing of myths about the new place, by the way.

The lucky dress­ing-room is a peren­nial ques­tion in any venue — your mem­ory may re­mind you of the sup­posed lucky dress­ing-room when a lot of soc­cer games were played in the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium, for ex­am­ple — and it’d be a sur­prise if the new Pairc Ui Chaoimh makes it to this au­tumn’s county fi­nals with­out one of the chang­ing ar­eas be­com­ing a spe­cific tar­get for the com­pet­ing clubs. It’s this one; no, it’s this one; how did we lose the toss-up to get it for the fi­nal?

That’s the minu­tiae. Broaden out the con­text and Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a marker of the di­rec­tion the city is tak­ing, work­ing its way down the long-ne­glected river cor­ri­dor to­wards Black­rock, an echo, per­haps, of what Barcelona did a cou­ple of years ago in turn­ing it­self around to face the sea.

In that re­gard the sta­dium’s re­open­ing is a huge boost to the en­tire re­gion.

For par­al­lels, think of the Amer­i­can mu­nic­i­pal author­i­ties which are al­ways des­per­ate to have a ma­jor sports fran­chise lo­cate their teams in their cities. In those cities, hav­ing a pres­ence in the ma­jor leagues brings huge ben­e­fits in terms of rep­u­ta­tion and stand­ing that go be­yond sport; for Cork, hav­ing a sta­dium that fits the county’s sense of it­self in sport and be­yond is more a state­ment of the facts.

There are more tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits, too. This com­ing week­end the sup­port­ers of Clare, Tip­per­ary, Water­ford and Wex­ford are ex­pected to stream in their tens of thou­sands into the city and sur­round­ing ar­eas. Ho­tel rooms are at a pre­mium in the city and bars, restau­rants and cafes in the area are surely count­ing the hours to the first sight­ing of cars with TN or CE regis­tra­tions.

That kind of eco­nomic boost has been miss­ing from Cork for over two years. De­spite the gen­eral re­cov­ery, those are vis­i­tor num­bers any part of Ireland would miss, and the flip side is the num­ber of Cork sup­port­ers head­ing out of town to sup­port their own sides. In this year’s Mun­ster cham­pi­onships Cork played two thirds of their two dozen games in other coun­ties, a size­able fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment for those fol­low­ing the blood and ban­dage.

Ex­pect some hic­cups over the next cou­ple of weeks, as people get ac­cus­tomed to the new dis­pen­sa­tion. You’ve got to go in a new gate, and leave by a dif­fer­ent route. The toi­lets are no longer where they were. Your old park­ing spot, known only to you and a cou­ple of thou­sand others, may not ex­ist any longer. That’s only to be ex­pected.

What may not be ex­pected is your re­ac­tion to your first view of the sta­dium from the in­side. En­joy it.

Pic­ture: Larry Cum­mins

DRESS­ING IT UP: County jer­sies hang­ing in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh dress­ing room. In­cluded are jer­sies for Tip­per­ary and Clare, Cork, Wex­ford and Water­ford.

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