| 6.3°C Dublin

Liam O'Neill vision for a new M50 home

Close

Liam O'Neill

Liam O'Neill

Liam O'Neill

GAA president Liam O'Neill believes the solution to recurring grumbles about Dublin footballers' permanent Croke Park residency lies in the construction of a new 40,000-seater stadium for Leinster.

His preferred location - a greefield site within easy access of the M50 motorway - might not satisfy those who have argued for greater fixture fairness in the province, as it would still effectively constitute a home venue for the Dubs.

But O'Neill believes such a stadium would satisfy most supporters in Leinster, offering a relatively short match-day journey for all counties bar Wexford and Kilkenny.

He also reiterated the recent stance adopted by the Leinster Council when fixing next year's provincial SFC clash between Dublin and the winners of Longford/Offaly for Croke Park - that Pearse Park, with a greatly reduced capacity, can no longer aspire to stage a summer showdown with the Dubs, as it did in 2006.

The president drew attention to a previous Leinster Council plan - abandoned following the economic crash - to construct a new 25,000-capacity stadium off the M50, catering for Meath, Louth, Kildare, Wicklow as well as Dublin. He believes it should be revisited, on a more ambitious scale.

"Leinster probably have to develop a stadium, somewhere in Leinster, that holds 40,000," O'Neill told a press briefing in Boston, where he is attending this year's GAA/GPA All Stars football tour.

"The focus has to be on comfort. People expect a standard now. My vision would be that we'd have a stadium somewhere in Leinster, within access of the M50, that would be all-seating and give spectator comfort that will be demanded by people in the coming 20 years. We have to anticipate that demand ... the Leinster proposal for an M50 stadium will have to be seriously considered."

The Laois official was Leinster Council chairman when Dublin footballers last travelled outside the capital for a championship match; he facilitated the venue switch following pleas from Longford who had lost to Paul Caffrey's team by 19 points the previous summer.

"Longford had a capacity of over 17,000 at the time. Now the capacity, because we've put safety first, is 9,000. So what I did that time is just not possible now," O'Neill maintained.

He said the challenge now is to build a stadium accessible to most of Leinster, adding: "There's no county in Leinster, other than Kilkenny or Wexford, that is more than an hour-and-a-half from the M50."

Moreover, he believes a part-terraced stadium is no longer a viable option. "People won't put up now with ordinary facilities," he claimed. "We've created an expectation, because Croke Park is such a state-of-the-art stadium.

"Our challenge over the next 20-30 years is to build stadia around the country that match the experience we have in Croke Park."

Meanwhile, O'Neill has dismissed a suggestion from Jim Gavin that the GAA should consider scrapping the National Football League as part of a radical fixtures overhaul.

The Dublin manager had proposed a retention of the provincial championships as stand-alone events and a new Champions League-style All-Ireland SFC - with no place for the NFL.

But in response, O'Neill insisted: "The National League is not for sale - it can't be. It is an important competition; it is important for the counties because it is the sorting-out process as to where you are."

Instead, Croke Park top brass are pressing ahead with plans to tighten their inter-county season, thereby freeing up extra dates for club activity, as part of the 2016 blueprint to complete club competitions in the calendar year.

CALENDAR

"We are bringing a report to Management next Friday night, looking at the calendar year and the possibilities around that by moving forward the All-Ireland finals," he explained.

"By moving forward the All-Ireland finals - by one week or two, whichever way it goes, you are releasing the teams who have completed their championship commitments a week or two earlier. And if you look at the scheduling of semi-finals and quarter-finals, we could be creative around that and get another week."

He expanded: "Most counties are looking at a situation where they will be finished their national fixture programme by mid-July, so they can then turn to their club players and say 'This is our space.' You could then start your provincial (club) championships by mid-October and play your All-Ireland series in December. That is a much more realistic proposal and that is what we are trying to go with."


Privacy