Martin Breheny: 'Attacking McKenna for Páirc Uí Chaoimh shambles won't distract from the real issues'
If you were to take the latest turn of events in the chaotic saga of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment at face value, you might think that it was all Peter McKenna's fault.
Cork County Board were told this week that the GAA's commercial manager and Croke Park stadium director was "incorrect and premature" when stating in an interview last December that the final cost of the development on Leeside could reach €110 million.
Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.
Delegates heard how Central Council were told last month that the interview prompted "public and media criticism of those involved in developing the stadium and the steering committee".
Delegates were also informed that the latest estimate for the redevelopment was €95.8m.
Let's leave the complicated dynamic between Croke Park, Cork County Board, Páirc Uí Chaoimh steering committee and contractors to one side and concentrate on an undisputed fact.
The final cost will be at least €25.8m more than the original estimate.
The €70m project was greeted with fanfare when it got the go-ahead from An Bord Pleanála in 2014.
The Cork board issued gushing press releases, highlighting the benefits of having a modern 45,000-capacity facility in the city.
Anyone who queried why it was necessary to build such a large stadium was depicted as a begrudger, utterly devoid of vision.
By November 2016, the estimated cost had shot up to €80m. But fear not, it was under control.
In fact, we were told that if a lucrative naming-rights deal could be landed, the stadium would be virtually debt-free by the time in opened in summer 2017.
Whatever happened to that projection? And how did it subsequently zoom towards €95.8m, which is nearly 37 per cent ahead of the original estimate.
McKenna's statement that the final cost could be €110m had implications far beyond Leeside. How had this happened? Who was responsible? Why weren't better controls in place?
We're now told that McKenna's figure was out by around €11.5m.
Time to put him in stocks then, and blast him with words like 'incorrect' and 'premature'.
But what about the 37 per cent overrun on the original estimate? Presumably, we're expected to accept that it's perfectly normal - and in the context of projects in this country, it probably is - but please don't insult our intelligence by trying to argue that McKenna's comments were the main problem.
They most assuredly were not.
Now if Páirc Uí Chaoimh were a fully-functioning stadium, the high outlay, thought unpalatable, would be put down to an unfortunate experience, best left in the past.
Instead, Cork have announced its closure until early next year so that a new pitch can be installed.
It's not even available for Cork's first Super 8s game, which will be played in Páirc Uí Rinn on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
So if Cork footballers beat Tyrone on Saturday, presenting them with a chance of qualifying for the All-Ireland semi-final when they play Roscommon, the €95.8m stadium will be empty while crowd restrictions will apply a short distance away in Páirc Uí Rinn.
We are reliably informed that the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh surface will be "in line with the most up-to-date pitch construction technology".
That, of course raises the question: why wasn't that the case in the first place?
Those of us who have been around since the original Páirc Uí Chaoimh was opened in 1976 know that pitch problems have always existed.
We were told it would be different after the redevelopment but, if anything, the surface was worse, as instanced last February when an Allianz League double-header made the surface look like a ploughed field.
Chastising McKenna for his comments on costs may keep some people happy, but it won't alter the reality that the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment has been an unmitigated shambles.
And it may not be over yet either.