Oriel Park has been Dundalk FC’s home since 1942. In the late 1960s major development took place at the ground including the construction of the club’s main stand. However, between 1967 and 2005 there was little development or improvement in the ground.
In 2005, a FIFA 2-Star Synthetic Surface was laid. This pitch has since been upgraded. In 2007, a new “shed” was constructed. Major improvements were made to the dressing rooms including new referee dressing rooms, medical room and kit room. New dressing rooms for use by teams renting the Oriel Park pitch were also constructed.
In 2010, Dundalk FC qualifed for European competition and launced the Bring Europe To Oriel Park (BE-TOP) campaign. In order to host our first matches at Oriel Park since 1991 the club had to become an all-seater stadium. Work commenced in March 2010 and was completed in June.
By far the most ambitious building project has been the construction of the Youth Development Centre. This is due to open in September 2010 when the Irish Senior Badminton Championships are due to be held at the venue.
GERRY MATTHEWS INTERVIEW: JULY 2010
What stage is the Youth Development Centre at now?
The Centre will be complete for the start of the Badminton tournament on the 27th September. The indoor pitches cannot be put down until the badminton is over. There is a lot of work to be done with seating arrangements and bar facilities before the Badminton Tournament.
The Badminton Tournament will be a great launch for the centre.
It’s a great boost. It’s exactly what the club needs. It’s a source of income that does not come from football. The organisers of the tournament are also delighted with the facilities. They couldn’t believe it when they saw it as it gave them adequate spaces for courts and parking etc. It’s a good money spinner for the club also.
Have your ambitions for the Youth Development Centre changed since your original plans a few years ago?
All the original ambitions are all there still and probably more on top of them. We are expanding on our original plans. Originally there was supposed to be three indoor pitches. Now it is two indoor pitches that will be adaptable for badminton, basketball or other sports. In particular, we are keen on the use of the pitches for Futsal as this is an excellent way for children to develop their ball skills at an early age. We did have to scale back the size of the centre from the original plans due to financial and planning constraints but the ambitions for its purpose have stayed firm.
What was the biggest challenge?
There was a huge expense in developing the underground car park. There is more expense in that than anywhere else. It holds 150 cars. To have any event other than just football would need such a facility. Parking is very important for any concerts or even the Badminton tournament in September. We intend holding more exhibitions in it and people like to be able to drive in and go straight to the attraction.
What are the plans for the bar facilities?
The upstairs bar in the centre will be open for parties similar to the Enda McGill Lounge and Lilywhite Lounge. It will be a bigger facility. There are other rooms that can be brought into it depending on the size of the event. These rooms can be used for lecturing purposes or video analysis during the week.
Are you happy with the progress?
I am delighted to see the interest in it in the community. The Irish Cancer Society are holding a 24 hour vigil in the centre in October. They raised 100k in a previous vigil and the club are giving the use of the facility to them for this years effort. It’s great to be able to have a facility that Dundalk FC can open up for community groups such as that.
Has the process of upgrading Oriel Park for European Football been an expensive process?
It has. To be honest my men were mostly working on the seats in the past six weeks. We bought the seats from the FAI and then had to do a lot of modifications for them to suit the ground. There is a big expense in it but the FAI have been very helpful in their terms of how we pay for the seats.
Will the price of the ticket sales from the BETOP campaign cover the costs of the work?
The sales as of first leg game was about €30,000. We have been hoping for €55 – €60,000. The seats cost €60,000. The beauty of it would be if we qualify for the next round. If we progress we’d be confident of getting another big crowd and there would be a healthy profit from the experience as there is no outlay on seats for that match.
Was the UEFA process straightforward?
It was not too bad at all. The FAI were very helpful. They were brilliant for us. John Delaney especially helped us with Ian Foster’s UEFA Pro-License. He contacted the CEO of the English FA regarding the course. Richard Fahy was very helpful with the testing of the pitch and the arrangments of the seats. Regina Coppinger also was very good. They all worked with UEFA to make sure all was okay. Regina liaised with us with all the improvements that we need to make such as simple things like repairing the dug-outs. We had to take photographs to show that work was done. But everything turned out okay.
Five years ago we were playing in Monghan with no pitch and the ground in a mess. What do you make of the progress the club has made over the past five years?
The whole thing is brilliant. I was delighted when we qualified for Europe and I was looking forward to the challenge of getting Oriel Park ready for the game with the seating and other work that needed to be done. From my own perspective I will be here five years in January. An awful lot of work has been done in that five years with the Youth Development Centre and other work. Where we are now is very good.