Is the GAA feeling pleased this morning, now they’ve been awarded £61.4 million of public money to develop Casement Park? Ask a silly question – of course they are. Are they more pleased that they’ve ended up developing their own Casement Park rather than sharing with rugby and soccer a ‘national’ stadium on the Long Kesh site? Ask a second silly question.
In theory, overlap in sporting accommodation is a good idea. Why maintain two stadia when you can use one more efficiently? In practice it doesn’t work. Remember the conditions Tottenham Hotspur laid down in their bid to use the Olympic stadium? They’d move from White Hart Lane but only if they could rip out that pesky running track and let athletics develop separately at Crystal Palace. And there’s long been a case for other soccer teams in England to share their grounds – Liverpool and Everton, Man United and Man City, Aston Villa and Birmingham. But each club naturally enough wants to have a sense of ownership. This is our ground, this is our home, this is Anfield. And guess what answer you’d get if you asked Celtic and Rangers to share a ground?
The development of Casement Park as an exclusively Gaelic games centre is good news not just for the GAA in Belfast but for the developing sense of nationalist identity. In recent years when a big game is scheduled, the tailback of cars pointing towards Casement has testified to increased pride in our national games. A 40,000-seater stadium will offer unmissable testimony that Belfast, so long a citadel of unionist politics and culture, has changed. First City Hall, then Stormont, now Casement. Bail ó Dhia ar an obair.