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‘It is, as it has been described, in extra time now’ – Justin McNulty still hopes Casement Park can be part of Euros

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Justin McNulty attended a media day ahead of Saturday’s Tailteann Cup final at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Laois manager and SDLP MLA Justin McNulty retains hope Casement Park could be redeveloped in time for the 2028 European Championships but admits the project is in a race against time.

The appointment of a new government in Westminster has renewed belief that the project could be fast-tracked with new British prime minister Keir Starmer on an official visit to Northern Ireland on Monday.

“It is, as it has been described, in extra time now for Casement to be ready for the Euros in 2028,” McNulty said.

“I think it is a huge opportunity. I just think there needs to be a bit of generosity shown on all sides to see the value of Casement Park as being a hugely exciting, positive and powerful symbol of reconciliation and hope for the North. That’s what it can be.

“I think it was discussed, discussed at length both by our party and by Sinn Féin, and I think… it’s the most pressing issue, I think it’s been described as, by Keir Starmer, for the North – a solution on Casement. The soundings I think are positive and I’m hopeful a positive announcement will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.”

McNulty, who will lead the Laois footballers into Saturday’s Tailteann Cup final in Croke Park, revealed he wrote to UEFA urging flexibility regarding their deadlines on the readiness of the new Casement Park.

“It’s teetering on the edge, for sure. I have actually written to the UEFA president myself, asking for flexibility and for flexibility to be shown to Casement Park given the nature of the stadium and what it means to the North. Hopefully, that will be the case,” he said.

Earlier this week, new Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn gave the project his backing, saying: “One way or another, if it is possible in time for the Euros; if not, one way or another, Casement Park will have to be built.”

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