Wednesday 24 October 2018

GAA: New bid to open Croke Park to other sports

Tom O'Riordan

TOM KENOY'S mission to open Croke Park to soccer and rugby internationals continues at the Roscommon County Convention tonight.

He will present a motion, on behalf of the Kilmore club, intent on opening Croke Park to 'non-gaelic games' in the near future.

It was at the same gathering 12 months ago that Kenoy successfully steered through a motion for consideration at the GAA's Annual Congress to have rule 42 amended whereby "Congress would give Central Council the authority to rent out Croke Park for the use of sports other than those affiliated to the GAA".

Kenoy went on to make a big impression at Congress at the Burlington Hotel where he delivered reasons why the GAA should change their 100-year-old rule forbidding games like soccer and rugby being played at grounds under their authority.

Many people felt that Kenoy was whistling past the graveyard with his motion but those sceptics had to eat their words when the president, Sean McCague, announced the result of the vote to the hushed audience.

According to mathematical calculations, the Roscommon motion needed a minimum of 176.6 votes of the total poll for the necessary two-thirds majority to be successful. In other words they needed 177 votes to carry the day.

But when the tally was taken it fell short by just one vote with 176 delegates deciding to support the motion. That represented 65.75 per cent of delegates who were agreeable to allow Central Council decide if they wished to rent Croke Park for rugby or soccer and make substantial money.

"One day this motion is going to be successful and get the support to be carried. We can only be hopeful that this time people will feel more positive as a result of last year's result," said Kenoy yesterday.

"Like Rule 21 it will go in time but we feel that people have had sufficient time to reflect on the mood of Congress last year to come out this time and give Central Council the mandate to make the major decisions about the future."

Two Longford clubs, Legan Sarsfields and Gratten Og, are also expected to table similar motions to the Longford Convention.

Some of the delegates who did not vote in Congress last April might have refrained from doing so after An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, gave the GAA some £60m as a grant for the development of Croke Park.

That was seen by some as an effort to get the GAA to come in behind the proposed new National Stadium as part of Campus Ireland. Cork delegates expressed the view that to support the prospect of opening Croke Park for soccer and rugby might be adverse to this.

The new National Stadium is still a major target for Mr Ahern and the Government but that situation could change due to the economic slowdown and the strong expressions of concern which have been made in light of the draining of reserves.

It's already being strongly hinted that the capital projects contained in the National Development Plan, that include the National Stadium, might have to be slowed down.

That would put an even greater focus on Croke Park which will have seated accommodation for 79,500 when all the stands are put in place, including coverage of Hill 16.

So if the Kilmore/Roscommon motion goes all the way this time then the prospect of rugby and soccer being played at the GAA headquarters will be a realistic probability.

Meanwhile, it was a year like no other in the history of the GAA with 86 championship games in football and hurling.

Keeping a record of all those matches would be difficult but Brian Carthy makes it possible with the publication of his seventh successive book which contains a documented history of every encounter.

'The Championship 2001' (Sliabh Ban Publications, £11.99) gives you full details of every game, the dates, venues, results, scorers, pictures and the full teams and substitutes.

It also includes an analysis of each provincial championship and the All-Ireland series, a must for GAA fans.

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