Casement Park: ‘It feels like the never-ending story’ - Antrim star Dermot McAleese hopeful of progress on troubled stadium redevelopment

Dermot McAleese of Antrim in attendance at the launch of the Tailteann Cup 2024 at Croke Park
Dermot McAleese of Antrim in attendance at the launch of the Tailteann Cup 2024 at Croke Park -Credit:Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Antrim's Dermot McAleese is eyeing another run to Croke Park as the Saffrons crank up in the Tailteann Cup and is hopeful that they can return to a new Casement Park in the near future.

A five-point win over Tipperary last Sunday has put Andy McEntee’s side in a strong position in Group Two as they travel to Wexford on Saturday, where a win would set up a probable group decider against Sligo two weeks later.

Antrim performed well in the competition last year, reaching the semi-finals at Croke Park, where they lost narrowly to McEntee’s native Meath, who went on to beat Down in the final.

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McAleese, now in his 12th season with Antrim, said: “It’s not often you get to play in Croke Park when you are in Division Three and Four, but this competition gives you a realistic chance of getting there.

“If you can win four games, you will get the chance to play in Croke Park. So that is a big carrot in front of all the teams, so it is.”

McAleese hailed the impact that McEntee has made having been something of a surprise appointment in 2022, shortly after stepping down as Meath boss.

“Andy has been brilliant, him and his team, they have been a breath of fresh air, to be honest. You know Andy, there are no back-doors with him, he is open and honest.

“If there is something to be said, he will say it. And as players, that honesty is invaluable, you know where you stand and what you have to work on. Nah, it’s been brilliant.

“He plays a nice brand of football, it is not just sitting back with 15 men behind the ball. He likes to get everyone forward, loads of legs, it is a fast game and hopefully that will serve us well coming into the summer with the harder ground.”

Antrim’s designated home game against Tipp was staged at Corrigan Park and McAleese is hopeful that a return to a refurbished Casement Park, where he has never played at senior level, is finally on the horizon.

“It just feels like the never-ending story at this stage. You feel like you are getting somewhere with it, and it is going to be built and then something happens, but now it looks like it finally will be, hopefully in all likelihood.

Aerial view showing redevelopment work at Casement Park with diggers visible and grass in bad condition
Aerial view showing redevelopment work at Casement Park -Credit:PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

“But it has been so frustrating, it must be over 10 or 11 years now since it has been closed. And to not have a proper home county ground, it has been disgraceful really, what has happened and being allowed to happen.

“But hopefully now with the Euros and that, it looks like it is finally making progress. You can see that the demolition diggers are in at the minute and for West Belfast to have a state of the art stadium, and for the younger generation around there to aspire to play there in an Antrim jersey, it will be great for the area.”

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