Why have another stadium?

Tom Humphries on his recent trip to Belfast outs himself as an aspirational Republican: “I still have a secret hankering (which I don’t mention around the office) for a united Ireland but I accept that, like my hankering for an etiolated heroin-chic body shape, it’s all aspirational”. Then goes on to deliver an assay of Northern Irish sports facilities (subs needed)!

On ice skating:

In Dundonald what seemed like thousands of teenage kids were slipping and sliding about the place, conspicuously oblivious, it seemed, to the attractions of getting alcoholic drink down them or buying gear to inject themselves with. I noticed (because I am unreconstructed and just can’t help it) lots of Rangers jerseys and a few English national shirts on the skaters but no county jerseys or Celtic hoops. Do Taigs not skate? Are we not past the politics of skate?

Ah, it’s all different up here:

Until I began covering sports events in Casement Park and Windsor Park I could never quite reconcile the dourness of the politics with the happy fervour of the drinking and partying. It would be nice to say that sport in Belfast is a common passion but it isn’t. It’s two separate, delineated passions which unintentionally find a similar form of expression. In Casement and Windsor, on those days when everyone is transfixed by sport, you can taste the salt of Belfast’s personality. What I have always liked about both venues – apart from certain grisly elements in their histories – is their accessibility. Both are fine grounds to walk to and they provide some of the sense of Belfast as a defiant, living city.

And on the GAA’s signing up to the new Maze stadium:

I’m not saying they are wrong; I’m just saying I am curious and baffled. The Ulster Council of the GAA (so cussedly partitionist a body that they have almost seceded from the GAA) have taken to playing their big games in Croke Park and play their lesser games in Clones (45,000 capacity) or in Casement (32,500) – have they something to bring to this party? I’m not sure.

The stadium, it is said, will be modelled on the lovely, sturdy Dragao stadium in Portugal. Very nice. The concept of different classes and creeds all sharing the same cathedral of sport is very nice too, but when three sports bodies, none of whom have an apparent need for such a facility, sign up to that facility regardless of the needs of their fans you have to wonder a little what else is going on in terms of whispered promises.