Cork's Páirc: Dan helps lead the way as GAA drive into new age

John Knox

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John Knox

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Cork's Páirc: Dan helps lead the way as GAA drive into new age

Dan Cody from Kilkenny, the National IT Infrastructure Manager in the GAA

James Stephens clubman, Dan Cody, is one of THE future planners in the GAA. Officially his title is National IT Infrastructure Manager.
As the job title would suggest, he will help push the organisation deeper and deeper into the digital age. It will be his task to lead the GAA’s drive to have the best, all encompassing communications system available not just in Croke Park or Pairc Ui Chaoimh, but in grounds throughout the country.
Dan, who hails from the Callan Road in Kilkenny City, first began working with the GAA back in 2006 when he helped with a small project in Hotel Kilkenny when his current work colleague, Nickey Brennan was heading out on the road that would eventually lead to the Conahy man being elected President of the association.
Offered full time job
Dan has, more or less, had a working involvement with the organisation since. After he finished with BT in 2012 he began working on a contract basis for the GAA with a company called Roscom.
Basically that role developed from two to three and then four days a week. Eventually last Christmas the GAA decided it would make more sense to have this expertise within the organisation, and so Dan was offered a full time job as national IT Infrastructure Manager.
“At that stage I was already heavily involved in the project in Cork because the GAA didn’t have the expertise to manage the project themselves,” he explained when we got together to talk about the €80 million development of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and his role therein.
Two years ago the GAA enrolled Messrs Cody and Brennan to start planning the multi million IT project for Cork’s magnificent new GAA home.
“It was a part time role that became nearly a full time role for both of us,” Dan smiled when he glanced back on a project that culminated with the opening of the grounds on the weekend before last to much national acclaim.
On to Casement Park
When the Páirc Uí Chaoimh job is finished he will move on to the Casement Park, Antrim development.
Beyond that, if the Rugby World Cup is to come to Ireland in 2023 there could be six or seven GAA stadia used for games, all of which would require IT upgrades, in conjunction with the Rugby Board, of course, if it comes to pass.
'Project Cork'
Even before ‘Project Cork’, Dan was responsible for making sure grounds around the country were fit for purpose when it comes to covering matches. He would have put a lot of work into the Killarney grounds, getting it ready for scanning and media; Thurles, which received an IT upgraded, and Kilkenny’s own Nowlan Park, where he helped design the infrastructure for the press/media areas in the old stand, plus the County Board offices.
Serious foundation
The Páirc Uí Chaoimh project was massive, but Dan felt all the planners involved had a serious foundation for tackling it because they used Croke Park as the yardstick for the standard that must be achieved.
“We knew what we had to get to as regards ticket scanning, press/media, EPOS (electron point of sale) and so on,” he explained when speaking about the IT end of things.
Where Cork differed in a major way was in the whole conferencing facilities set up. That will form a huge part of the revenue stream that will help finance the day to day running costs of the stadium, so it was critical the arena can offer a good business like experience for the people who use it.
So where to start?
Get foundation right
“It is like building a house,” Dan offered. “The foundation has to be 100%. Our foundation is our cabling infrastructure. Ours consists of the most up to date fibre optic 10 gig single mode fibre backbone which is huge. We then have our Cat 6 cabling on top of that.”
Here Kilkenny expertise enters the story again. The GAA have been using the same company to carry out this work for the last five years in Croke Park - David Mulcahy Electrical (DME) from Kilkenny.
“Davy was responsible for getting the cabling infrastructure in place,” Dan explained. “On top of that we put all the various technologies. If the cabling infrastructure isn’t right it doesn’t matter what you put on top of it, it won’t work.”
DME previously did similar work in Croke Park, so they had a proven track record.
Croke Park is generally viewed as one of the leading grounds in Europe. However, Páirc Uí Chaoimh (PUC) as it stands is even better, in an IT sense.
Perhaps in time Casement Park will take things a step further, but PUC is the standard setter right now.
Vodafone deal crucial
Getting the technology partnership with Vodafone was huge. That enabled the Cork Board to stretched to a new, higher level in terms of the technology infrastructure within the grounds.
“It was all very exciting,” Dan insisted. “Another first for Ireland is that the LED floodlighting is a first for this country. For concerts they can adopt and change the colours of the lights. Basically they can do what they want with the lighting system.”
The opening weekend, he admitted, was a dream.
“We had no issues,” he suggested, then corrected himself. “Oh, there was one simple thing. We were short two power sockets in the front row of the press/media area. We simply brought in an extension lead. Sorted!”
The work cracked on right up to the Friday night before the first big match, the All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final between Tipperary and Clare.
On average Dan’s working day during the height of the development ran from 7 to 7, morning to night on site. Subsequently a couple of hours might be spent in the hotel reviewed the day, planning for the next day.
“That went on for two or three months,” he revealed. “In fairness to Croke Park and my boss, Tomás Meehan, Chief Information Officer (the former Galway footballer), they gave us a free hand to manage and look after the project, and to deliver. That vote of confidence was great.”