Fans revel in winning start for revamped Independent Park
MUNSTER rugby fans in Cork won't have to travel too far to enjoy high-profile games with the opening of the new-look Irish Independent Park.
The stadium got off to a winning start, with the Red Army delivering a thrilling 33-16 win over Cardiff Blues to go top of the Guinness Pro12.
Fans were impressed by the redevelopment at the 75-year-old ground and are looking forward to having more big games held in Cork.
The official opening of Irish Independent Park is due to take place on February 28, when Munster face Glasgow Warriors in a critical Pro12 showdown.
The rebranding and redevelopment is part of a 10-year corporate partnership between Independent News & Media (INM) and Munster Rugby.
A significant portion of the finances from the landmark deal will be invested by Munster Rugby in redeveloping Irish Independent Park. They have ambitious plans for the 10,000-capacity Cork stadium, including a state-of-the-art West Stand.
INM chairman Leslie Buckley said it ranked as one of the most exciting projects in Irish sport.
"This is hallowed ground for Munster rugby - and particularly for Cork supporters. The Irish Independent has a strong affinity with Munster rugby, which is underpinned by our weekly rugby pull-out exclusively for our Munster readers," he said.
Fans hailed the new-look ground.
"Fair play to the Irish Independent for supporting this ground redevelopment. This means I will be able to go to a lot more Munster games because it isn't easy getting to Limerick for matches," said Fergal Monahan from Ballincollig.
"It's fantastic to see a rugby facility like this in Cork. We're huge Munster fans, but it is nice not to have to make the long trek up to Thomond Park in Limerick all the time for the big games," said Michelle Horgan from Rochestown.
Michelle attended the match with her husband Rob, son Ben (9), and his friends Isaac (9), Evan (10) and Cameron Lee (10).
Tom Coughlan also hailed the ground as a winner for Cork.
"It is great to have matches like these being staged in Cork. I'm already looking forward to the Glasgow match," he said.
For keen rugby player Darragh O'Brien (8), it was a chance to see the new-look ground. He attended with his parents Maurice and Mona.