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Bertie's bowled out to clear field for Leo's Varadkar Valley

WITH one short, dismissive sentence, Leo Varadkar casually hammered the final nail into the biggest hope and dream that lurked in the heart of Bertie Ahern.

"Needless to say, that's not going ahead," remarked the minister at the launch of the new National Sports Campus Plan.

He was talking about the long-cherished ambition of the former Taoiseach; that some day the Bertie Bowl would stand at Abbotstown in west Dublin as a steel-and-glass monument to his magnificence.

But yesterday, it was bye-bye Bertie Bowl, and hello Varadkar Valley.

Leo looked quite pleased with life yesterday as he and the various big wheels of Irish sport eventually strolled into the press conference in his department.

As Leo and the half-dozen honchos took their seats, there was a moment to reflect on the marvellous success that women have had in breaking through the glass ceiling of the Irish sporting fraternity (seated alongside the minister were the IRFU's Philip Browne; GAA director general Paraic Duffy; the chief executive officer and the chairman of the National Sports Campus Development Authority (NSCDA) Barry O'Brien and Sean Benton; head of the Irish Hockey Association Angus Kirkland, and FAI boss John Delaney.)

But this was an announcement designed to lift all flagging sporting spirits, and it certainly prompted a masterly performance in synchronised grinning from the top table.

For Varadkar's Valley isn't a stand-alone stadium -- it's a veritable sporting metropolis of tracks and pitches and pavilions, all built alongside the impressive National Aquatic Centre (which currently is being used by the South Korean swimming team as part of their preparations for the London Olympics).

And the minister pronounced himself "delighted" to announce the €19m development of the Leo Leisureplex in Abbotstown in Blanchardstown -- serendipitously, although he essentially inherited the project, it's bang-slap in the middle of his own constituency of Dublin West.

"As you know, the Sports Campus for a long time has been associated with the Bertie Bowl. Needless to say, that's not going ahead and we're drawing a line under the past and starting afresh," he declared.

But as well as all the sporting facilities, there will be plenty of room for all the various sporting bodies that have managed to survive Leo's much-vaunted quango cull.

No less than 19 National Governing Bodies (NGBs) will take up residence in a new Irish Sport HQ on the campus near Blanchardstown, and the rather grand mansion formerly known as Abbotstown House will be the stately home of the Irish Sports Council when it is finally merged with the NSCDA. Perhaps it'll be renamed Quango Hall, in memory of the good old days.

But Leo is eager to transmogrify this campus into a proper sporting facility as quickly as possible.

"The first things that are going ahead are the Sports Campus's own pitches. That's going to be a major development and it will be open to everyone in sport," he said. "The objective now is to move on from offices and buildings to having real training facilities and sporting facilities on site -- to have jerseys out on the Sports Campus and not just suits and lab-coats."

big plans for campus

Irish Independent