Tom O’Brien, resident engineer
Iwas handed the keys of the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh by the county board on March 20 2015, which was the first day that the works started on site. I’ll be handing the keys of the new stadium back to the county board this week, so I’ll have been on site nearly two and a half years.
I’m resident engineer for Malachy Walsh and Partners, the design consultants and project managers on the project. My role was to bring the design of the new stadium from the design office to the construction site and to monitor the works and make sure the works were carried out as per design, specifications and regulations.
The main contract then started, with Sisk’s, on December 7 2015. They took over the Project Supervisor Construction Stage (PSCS) role and that continues to the handover for the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers.
My role as the resident engineer included pre-pour and post pour checks which included checking the correct reinforcement had been placed in the concrete pour, spacing of re-bar, cleanliness of the shutters and levels of the pours.
Hickey Formwork from Araglin carried out all the insitu concrete. There were approximately 22,000 cubic metres of concrete poured on the project. The groundwork contractor was Tony Kirwan — installing all the foul, storm pipework, electrical ducting and so on.
The new South Stand which was the old covered stand is a three tier five floor stand.
There are 5,300 seats in the first and third tiers and 2,200 seats on the second tier which is the premium level. The ground floor is players, admin staff and stewards only. There are four dressing rooms, two warm-up rooms, four management rooms, two referees rooms, a state of the art gym, physio rooms, first aid rooms.
Level one and three are general public admissions and level two is premium. There are a number of licensed bars, hot and cold food kiosks, shops on all floors. There are conferencing facilities and meeting rooms on the second level along with the tv studio and event control room.
The North Stand, the old uncovered stand, is an 8,000 seater stand. Again here there are a number of licensed bars, hot and cold food kiosks, shops. The only part of the old stadium that is standing today are 44 con-
crete legs of the terrace (22 each end). The vomitoriums on the terraces are now half way up the terrace as opposed to the old stadium where they were at the bottom of the terrace. There are seven stairs to access the mezzanine floors that lead you out on to ten vomitoriums for access to the terraces.
Donal Kelly of Ballydesmond built the 4G pitch on the southern side of the South Stand, while Steven O’Brien and Steven Calnan supplied all the gear for the toilets — soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and so on. Declan Hurley did the structural steelwork for the terraces. As far as we could we employed local businesses.
The hours were eight in the morning to seven in the evening, lads would start arriving on site at half seven, twenty to eight, to start then at eight. There have been times during the project when we’ve had to go beyond those hours — getting ready for a pour, if it was weatherdependent on the following day then we’d have to work on. The maximum personnel we have had on site in a single day was 555.
The residents’ committee in the area have been very helpful to us, the committee chairman, Paddy Mulley in particular.
There’s been a lot of construction traffic, obviously — there’s been quarter of a million tons of spoil taken from the site. That’s just spoil, remember - add in construction traffic, concrete trucks, construction plant, machinery hire, pedestrians, workers, and there have been over one million cases of vehicles accessing and leaving the site.
We’ve had a good working relationship with the neighbours, though, we‘ve had very few complaints, and we’ll be handing the building back to the county board then hopefully that good relationship will continue into the future. After two and a half years we’re handing back a good product for the people of Cork, one that hopefully they’ll be proud of.
I’m very proud of the finish to the stadium. We’ve poured a lot of concrete in situ, and the finish of that concrete is excellent.
A lot of the precast concrete came from Banagher, and you’d always have a better finish on precast, but in the new Páirc you can’t distinguish between the two.
The main contact started on December 7 2015, and that was a bad winter. It started raining in the second week of November and continued to St Patrick’s Day 2016.
We were digging the foundations, and the dig level for the foundation of the south stand lifts was four metres underground, but from then on, for the last 15-16 months we can’t complain about the weather, it’s been very good.
When we lifted the roof of the South Stand, that was done in two sections.
There are 20 trusses in the roof which were made up in pairs on the ground outside the South Stand, each pair of trusses weighing 64 tons. We had two separate lifts – 10 trusses before Christmas 2016 and 10 trusses February 2017.
Out of those 10 lifts, we only had one day we couldn’t do the lift because of wind. Apart from the wet weather at the start and that day of wind, the weather’s been very good.
Missing the initial date... we have a programme we work to and it was a tight one. It was unfortunate that day came, just two weeks, three weeks too soon.
If the weather had been good to us early on we’d probably have made it, but at the end of the day it’s patrons’ safety is paramount.
But when people come into the stadium I think they’ll get the wow factor. They’ll see the enormity of the job, and the fact that one or two weeks won’t make that much of a difference.
It’s been a job you’d learn a lot from in terms of engineering, it was excellent in terms of experience — you have major steelwork engineering, a 40-metre cantilever on the south stand roof, which itself is 50 metres long.
Seeing that work alone... that’s anchored from the back and supported on the SF columns, big concrete work, big lift shafts, serious concrete pours, serious floor pours.
And there’s a good satisfaction in dealing with the people in the area. We’ve taken down the hoarding and people can see the pitch and the ground floor of the south stand — people are stopping workers and saying ‘congrats, it’s a super job’.
I’m from Ballydehob in west Cork — my dad has The Irish Whip pub there, home to Danno Mahoney, the ex world wrestling champion — and I’ve been involved with Gabriel Rangers all my life. We’d have gone to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for years following Cork, we’d know it well.
Going into it all along, of course it was run-down and well overdue the revamp. That’s why I’ve referred to the finish, which is so highquality.
The North Stand has a big concourse underneath, for instance, compared to the old tunnel where you’d have thousands of people in together after a game.
Now you have four big exit gates and you’ll be able to get the crowd — 45,000 patrons — out in six and a half minutes.
Being a GAA man and working on the project — it’s been a dream job, really.
THE EARLY DAYS: Tom O’Brien, below, has been the resident engineer during the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh. He says the work has been completed without unduly upsetting the local residents. Below: Tom O’Brien