New €12m Abbotstown facility won't be Dubs' base - Paraic Duffy
New €12m facility on National Sports Campus is available for all clubs and counties to use, insists Croker’s top official
The GAA has dismissed any perception that the state-of-the-art €12m National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown will be a new home for Dublin GAA.
At a press briefing to mark the opening of the facility on the National Sports Campus, GAA president Aogán ó Fearghail and director-general Páraic Duffy were both adamant that it would be a facility for every unit of the GAA to use.
With five full-size pitches, including a 3G pitch and one exact replica of Croke Park even down to the contours and rise in the middle, the GAA envisage the centre as a hub for inter-county and club challenges, second- and third-level games and with on-site gym facilities incorporated into the contemporary building on a 25-acre site beside the National Aquatic Centre, it will also deliver training input into individual performances of players, referees and administrators.
But its location has led some high-profile figures to suggest that it will be a further crutch to Dublin's development.
Prior to the 2014 championship the former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness contrasted how his county had to spend €1.75m on a Centre of Excellence while "Dublin get one handed to them, which is handy, and which is worth €20 million".
Duffy has firmly dismissed that notion and has said there is no "anchor tenant".
"Let's face it, we're talking about Dublin here. Have Dublin any special first say on it? The answer is no. Nor have they sought it to be fair to them. I'm sure they will use it," he added.
"Our goal is to have teams of all shapes and sizes on using it. I think clubs from all over the country will be thrilled with the opportunity of coming here for a weekend and maybe using the gym for a session, playing a match here.
"I think it will be used by all 32 counties, 2,000 clubs. That's what we want and I believe that will happen."
Most adjacent counties have developed their own training facilities. Meath have completed Dunganny, just over half-an-hour away, Louth have Darver between Ardee and Dundalk, again less than an hour away, Hawkfield in Kildare is within easy access while Offaly have started their development outside Kilcormac.
Dublin had intended to develop a facility in Rathcoole but that has fallen through so some of the €2m, pledged by the GAA towards the south county development, will become a credit for Dublin to rent the facilities at the National Games Development Centre.
"There will be an arrangement with Dublin in terms of (how) they use it. If you put it against their Rathcoole money, that will be part of the payment arrangement," said Duffy.
The open nature of the facility may preclude some inter-county teams from using it for matches and training given their propensity for covert preparations.
Duffy said it wasn't the GAA's choice to locate the facility in Dublin.
"This is the National Sports Campus, we didn't determine where that would be," he said. "The Government decided it would be here. As the premier sporting organisation in the country, we had to be here, but we didn't decide the site.
"If the Government had decided to put this in Athlone or Cavan or Monaghan or Kerry we'd have been there, because we have to be. We are the major national sporting body. You couldn't have a National Sports Campus without the GAA.
"The Government decided it would be here and gave us the land here so we developed it here. We didn't decide to put a facility into Dublin."
The GAA received a €500,000 grant from the Department of Sport for the development but funded the remainder from its own income and doesn't expect to run the facility at a profit.
Booking for the pitches are currently being taken by phone but in time an online facility is to be established. The Croke Park ground staff, headed by Stuart Wilson, will oversee the maintenance of the pitches. Within the building there are 10 dressing-rooms and a covered stand adjacent to the main pitch which can accommodate 400 people.
ó Fearghail said the location was important for the GAA. "We are pleased to be partnering with other sports, soccer, rugby, aquatic, equestrian, all other sports in close proximity."