The revamped Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Páirc Uí Chaoimh relief

Michael Olney & Marguerite Kiely

The grandson of the man Páirc Uí Chaoimh is named after has expressed relief following a decision to delay a deal that could have seen the stadium renamed SuperValu Páirc.

Dónal Ó Caoimh, grandson of former GAA director general Pádraig Ó Caoimh, said he hopes the decision will allow time for reflection and debate on how to safeguard the sustainable financial health of Cork GAA while retaining his grandfather’s legacy.

“I hope an agreement can be reached where our heritage, history, and identity can be balanced against financial necessity,” said Mr Ó Caoimh.

“One potential solution is the name SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh,” he added.

Earlier this week, news emerged that a sponsorship deal worth approximately €1 million to Cork GAA over three years could see Páirc Uí Chaoimh renamed SuperValu Páirc.

However, following a meeting of Cork County Board delegates on Tuesday amidst a torrent of public backlash, the rebranding deal has been suspended with both SuperValu and Cork GAA confirming they will be “continuing their engagement” on the matter.

Mr Ó Caoimh continued: “I know that SuperValu has made such a valuable contribution to Irish communities.

“I also greatly appreciate the coverage the media has given to the issue especially in light of the banning of the media from yesterday’s Cork County Board meeting.

“I look forward to further open and transparent public debate in the coming days.”

When the renaming deal was first announced, a number of public figures voiced their opposition, including An Tánaiste Micheál Martin who said he wrote on social media that he was “deeply disappointed and annoyed at the proposal to change the name of Páirc Uí Chaoimh”.

He said: “Pádraig Uí Chaoimh was a key figure in the formation of the GAA at club and national level.

“Govt allocated €30m towards the development of the stadium and never sought naming rights.”

History and heritage

Lord Mayor, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy has said that he is pleased that the Cork county board have taken on board widespread concerns over the proposed rename of the stadium and delayed the decision to rename Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“It's great that they have pressed the pause button and that they are going to take time to reflect on it,” he told the Cork Independent.

“If you mention Páirc Uí Chaoimh to anyone who is involved in any sporting community, they know that’s in Cork. It’s important that we mind that heritage, and the legacy of Padraig O’Caoimh,” he said.

“This isn’t an anti-SuperValu tirade, they are fantastic and give so much sponsorship to different communities. The fact that they are offering this large sum of money, great credit is due to them.

“But we can be very quick to throw out history for the sake of modernisation. The debt needs to be paid off, but I think you can do that through the marriage with heritage and the legacy of people from the past. Páirc Uí Chaoimh has a fantastic story and they need to keep building on that particular story,” he added.

Commercial imperative

Cork GAA Ceo Kevin O’Donovan told RTÉ’s Marty Morrissey that Cork county board have heard people’s concerns around the renaming of the grounds. “We do know there has been a lot of discussion, we’re listening to that,” O’Donovan said. “We’re listening very closely to our clubs. That will inform our discussion as we proceed,” he said.

However, with the stadium €30 million in debt, he said that all revenue avenues need to be explored. “There’s a commercial imperative that we pursue all options,” he said. “We want to proceed as urgently as possible with all commercial arrangements. ”

O’Donovan said that the backlash around the renaming rights was not unexpected.

“No debate would ever surprise us in Cork, it’s par for the course, it shows the value of the Cork brand.

“It shows the passions people have. It shows that it was discussed in many households across the country, that shows you the interest we have in our games, in our brand, in our family, in our 140 years of history, that’s a serious commercial revenue stream we feel we can maximise in the future.”

In response to whether 'Supervalu Páirc Uí Chaoimh' would serve as an acceptable middle ground, O'Donovan stated, "Everything is up for discussion."