HomeFootballEx-Antrim ace McManus says British government must ‘step up’ for Casement Park

Ex-Antrim ace McManus says British government must ‘step up’ for Casement Park


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NEIL McMANUS says the British government must ‘step up’ and cover the shortfall for Casement Park’s rebuild.

Fresh doubt has been cast on the stadium project and whether it will be completed in time for Euro 2028 following comments made by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.


Former Antrim ace Neil McManus has called for the British government to step up
Contractors with excavators have begun clearing the concrete seating terraces at Casement Park in Belfast ahead of the long-delayed redevelopment of the stadium


Contractors with excavators have begun clearing the concrete seating terraces at Casement Park in Belfast ahead of the long-delayed redevelopment of the stadium

He said during questions on the north at Westminster that current construction estimates are ‘significantly higher’ than a year ago.

And Heaton-Harris reiterated that there will be no ‘blank cheque’ issued and said any funding provided would have to be on a ‘value for money’ basis.

With no contractor appointed, the Northern Ireland Secretary was also careful not to ‘artificially inflate a price’ for the rebuild by confirming more funding.

The Irish Government pledged €50m to the project in February with the Northern Executive on the hook for £62.5m and the GAA committed to a £15m investment.

That will still leave a giant shortfall with suggestions that the end figure for construction could be as high as £308m.

Speaking at the launch of this year’s Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tour Series at Croke Park, McManus said it is a straightforward situation for him.

The Saffrons great stressed: “I’d take a step back from it and say that the long and the short of it is that there were three stadia promised and three stadia commitments made from the British government.

One was Kingspan, one was Windsor and the other was Casement.

“They have to fulfil the third one of those, regardless of the European championships.

“There’s work going on at the minute and preliminary works are continuing. We’re waiting to see where this money is going to come from.


“I’m firmly of the belief that the British government should pay for it.

They’ve promised three stadiums and they’ve delivered two of them, which leaves the GAA isolated on its own.

“Historically, we’ve been neglected by the government in the north as a GAA community and they should fix that.

“The GAA has been underwhelmed by the support that the government has given.

“And there’s an opportunity here for them to demonstrate that they do care about the association and what it provides for so many people in the north.

“Let’s build Casement Park and show people that you care because you can talk but you also have to demonstrate things.”

Preparatory works have begun on the West Belfast site though it was reported this week that Uefa are drawing up contingency plans in the event that the ground is not completed in time.

Cushendall man McManus said: “I think the British government needs to step up.

“In 2005, I played my first county final, which was in Casement Park and there were 10,000 people there.

“It was ourselves and Loughgiel Shamrocks and it was phenomenal.

“It will stay with me forever. I’d love to do that again but I would be unsure if that will happen for me.

“I got to play in Casement and to enjoy maybe five years there but there’s a whole generation of Antrim gaels who haven’t and who will finish their careers without doing so.

“That is a crying shame.”

With Casement remaining out of commission, the Antrim hurlers will return to Corrigan Park on Saturday for their Leinster SHC Round 2 clash with Wexford.

But conceding 5-30 against Kilkenny last Sunday, and losing by 32 points has dampened expectations ahead of the tie.

Ex-attacker McManus said: “It’s certainly not impossible but I think Antrim will be massive outsiders.

“I’ll go there with hope, for sure and hope that every bit of luck available falls our way but I do think Wexford are very strong.

“I think there’s a lot of their panel who are at an age now where they know it could be their last chance of success this season or next season.

“Lee Chin, Dee O’Keeffe, Liam Óg McGovern, Matthew O’Hanlon and Liam Ryan, that cohort of players.

“This is the last roll of the dice this season and next season for them in my opinion and they’ll want to experience a Leinster final again so that could be bad news for Antrim on Saturday to be honest.”


McManus retired after last May’s Leinster Championship defeat of Westmeath — keeping Antrim in the Liam MacCarthy Cup for 2024.

He felt he was leaving them in a great place but injuries, retirements and departures have left them in a difficult spot almost a year on.

McManus said: “We were on a really solid footing at that stage. I think we’d shown we were competitive for the majority of our games in the Leinster Championship and there was a very solid base for the future and this year.

“I was thinking, ‘Jesus, I’ve left it in a great place here’. Then obviously so many lads stepped away.”

Boss Darren Gleeson cut a frustrated figure after last weekend’s mauling by Kilkenny.

Recalls for key players like Keelan Molloy and Gerard Walsh, unused subs against Kilkenny, could happen this weekend.

McManus said: “Knowing the two lads, if they’re anyway right they’ll make themselves available. If I was in Darren’s shoes, it would be hard to hold yourself back from giving them the spin.

“I do think it’s not a foregone conclusion that Wexford will just rock up and beat Antrim in Corrigan Park.

“We haven’t been brilliant on the road but at Corrigan Park we’ve given plenty of teams of the top calibre plenty of trouble over the years.”

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