Thursday 23 March 2017

GAA puzzled by Delaney's Croke Park claim

DAMIAN LAWLOR

THE GAA last night described John Delaney's claim that the FAI may not have got involved in the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road had they known Croke Park was available in the long term as "incredible".

Delaney's comments hit the headlines yesterday morning as he once again dismissed the notion of the FAI potentially moving bigger games from the Aviva Stadium to Croke Park in the future. The soccer body's chief executive stated that the GAA's initial position meant that both the FAI and IRFU had to make their own plans.

Reacting to Delaney's comments that the GAA refused to offer Croker as a long-term option, Operations Manager Fergal McGill said, "It's an absolutely incredible statement from John Delaney.

"Go back to the start of all this. Croke Park was only opened on a temporary basis once the FAI and IRFU confirmed that Lansdowne was closed for redevelopment.

"So regardless of what they say now, the FAI was always rebuilding and pressing ahead for their own stadium. No matter what we did or didn't do, they were going to redevelop Lansdowne anyway. So this latest statement is totally puzzling.

"It's also completely at odds with countless statements that John Delaney has released over the years where time and again he has stressed the need for Ireland to have its own soccer stadium and venue.

"The bottom line is that they were always planning ahead for their own future regardless of us, which makes his comments all the more incredible. So why is he criticising Croke Park and the GAA? We're not responsible for the running of the FAI's affairs.

"Lansdowne was only ever closed for redevelopment; it was always going to reopen. And we only opened Croke Park to other sports when they started rebuilding Lansdowne. They were always going to return.

"Why they are saying they might not have gone back there is beyond me. Why were they planning on building a new stadium so? And what about their much-heralded desire for Ireland to have its own soccer stadium?"

Delaney had claimed on Friday night that "had it been made clear going in that Croke Park would remain open in the longer term, I think that discussion could have taken place.

"But it was made clear to both Philip Browne (IRFU CEO) and myself when we attended the first meetings that Croke Park was not going to become available to us in the longer haul."

Stressing that he couldn't see soccer internationals returning to Croke Park for at least 10 years, Delaney's comments came in the wake of news that Ireland will play Brazil in a friendly at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium on March 3.

Croke Park was open to hosting this friendly but it will instead be staged in north London, a move that will hardly endear the FAI to soccer supporters all over the country.

Sunday Independent

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