Cork Athletic Grounds/Páirc Uí Chaoimh
September 11th 1904 was a great occasion for the Association. To coincide with the official opening of the newly-constructed Cork Athletic Grounds, the 1902 All-Ireland Finals were played there. The grounds, on the site of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, were formally opened by Lord Mayor Augustine Roche in a brief ceremony.
Over 20000 spectators turned up and there were not enough turnstiles to get them in for the first match. The cheering of the crowd inside provoked large numbers into climbing over the corrugated iron surrounds which were damaged in the process. There were two refreshment rooms inside the grounds, and one of these collapsed from the weight of people who had climbed onto the roof. Fortunately no-one was injured.
The games themselves were one-sided. Dungourney easily defeated London in the hurling final, while Bray Emmetts, representing Dublin, defeated London Irish 2-8 to 1-2 in the football.
Musical entertainment was provided by the Barrack Street and Butter Exchange bands and a band from Midleton.
The Athletic Grounds was run by a private company. In the early days, it was let out at a rent of one-third of net receipts. In an endeavour to promote it, the owners installed a weighing machine and a shooting gallery and attempted to arrange trains to bring down the spectators.
At a later stage, women were admitted free of charge. The grounds were originally let out for hockey and Association Football in the winter, but by 1906 they had become exclusively used for hurling and football.
Interestingly, the first aeroplane flight from Cork took off from the grounds in 1912. For part of 1914 it was commandeered by the British Military for stabling horses as World War I got underway. There was some damage to the grounds which was later repaired and they were handed back in 1915 following an amicable settlement.
Perhaps the most traumatic experience in the grounds’ history occurred in August, 1920. Tipperary and Limerick were due to play in the Munster Hurling Championship. When the officials went down to open the grounds, they found the turnstiles occupied by nests of machine-gunners who fired over their heads and forced them to retreat. The GAA outwitted the military and the teams and many spectators made their way quietly to Riverstown where the match was played. Games were not played again at the Athletic Grounds until after the truce.
Extensive reconstruction of the Cork Athletic Grounds took place in 1935, involving a major drainage scheme on the outside. The banking on all sides of the ground was extended considerably, and a new entrance with eighteen turnstiles and three large gates was built. A covered stand to accomodate 700 people was erected, and the paling inside the grounds was pushed back to make the pitch area bigger.
June 6th, 1976 saw the culmination of many years of effort with the official opening of Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the site of the old Athletic Grounds. The initial contract price for the development was £985,000 but the final cost reached £1,700,000 as a result of inflation and some necessary modifications. It was an historic occasion for the GAA as a whole as this was the first custom-built stadium in the history of the Association.It was appropriate that this fine stadium should be dedicated to the memory of the man who is recognised as the architect of the modern GAA – Pádraig Ó Caoimh. It was also fitting that the stadium\’s covered stand should commemorate Cork\’s second President of the Association, Seán MacCarthaigh, a man who gave a lifetime of service to the GAA at every level.
The official opening was performed by GAA President, Conchubhair Ó Murchú, who had been at the forefront of the planning, negotiation and fund-raising leading up to the construction of the new stadium.
Two challenge games were played to mark the occasion; Cork defeated Kilkenny in hurling and lost to Kerry in football.