Aviva Stadium unveiling signals dawn of a new era
It's taken three years and €410m, but yesterday Irish rugby and soccer finally moved into their new home.
Fans of both codes can be proud of the dazzling 50,000-seat Aviva Stadium, which had its curtain-raiser yesterday -- the O2 rugby challenge match between a Leinster-Ulster and a Connacht-Munster selection.
The original Lansdowne Road was a multi-sports venue and included a cinder track for athletics, a cricket pitch, a croquet green, three football pitches and facilities for archery and lawn tennis.
The venue hosted its first rugby international in 1878, but the new stadium, which occupies the same site, is a world away from the grand old lady of Dublin 4.
More than 45,000 tickets were sold for yesterday's match but the bank holiday, with many fans away for the weekend or on annual holidays, reduced the actual attendance to 35,000.
However, there were reports of traffic congestion in the hours before the game as many patrons ignored the plea to use public transport to get to the new venue.
But as Irish rugby returned to its spiritual home in Dublin 4, it was more of a social than sporting occasion as the Leinster/Ulster combination proved far too strong for Connacht/Munster.
Despite poor weather there was a vibrant atmosphere considering the uncompetitive fare.
It was apparent from the opening whistle that Leinster/Ulster held all the aces and the honour of scoring the first try in the new ground fell to right-wing Craig Gilroy, who raced under the posts on five minutes. Jackson was to prove the half's most impressive performer, with the Ulsterman instrumental in four of his side's tries as well as kicking all six conversions.
He received strong support from captain Luke Marshall, who bagged a brace of tries himself. Leading 42-0 at the break, Leinster/Ulster eased off upon the resumption, with left-wing Andrew Boyle completing his hat-trick on 48 minutes, and late replacement Michael McAuley sealed the win with his side's 10th try three minutes from time.
The first major rugby match at the Aviva will be the visit of world champions South Africa on November 6. But before that fans of both Irish and English soccer will get the chance to sample the new venue when an Airtricity League XI plays a Manchester Utd selection on Wednesday.
Next week, Giovanni Trapattoni's team will test themselves against Argentina, in a friendly international ahead of the European qualifiers later in the year.