Saturday 24 March 2018

GAA urged to relax strict rules on the use of county grounds

Gaelic Games

A motion to open up GAA major county grounds for rugby and soccer is back on the agenda. Photo: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile
A motion to open up GAA major county grounds for rugby and soccer is back on the agenda. Photo: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Opening up all GAA major county grounds to soccer and rugby is back on the agenda, with Clare leading the call for change.

The proposal to relax the ban, which applies to all GAA grounds except Croke Park, will be discussed by Congress in Carlow on Saturday fortnight.

A similar motion, also put forward by Clare, was well beaten last year but Noel Walsh, one of the driving forces behind the successful drive to open up Croke Park in 2005, hopes that a mood for change is emerging.

The Miltown Malbay clubman, a former Munster chairman and GAA presidential candidate, said that the proposal simply involved the transfer of power from Congress to Central Council to decide on use of grounds.

"That's what happened with Croke Park in 2005. We're not saying, 'Open up our county grounds to soccer and rugby straight away' but instead give Central Council the authority to decide as required."

Walsh, whose club steered the motion through the Clare Convention, said he can't understand why Central Council is empowered to decide on the use of Croke Park while a different policy applies to county grounds.

"We can trust Central Council to do the right thing, as they have always done with Croke Park.

"They should have the authority to decide if a special request for a county ground arrived from some other sport. That's all we're asking for," he said.

Congress previously decided to co-operate with the IRFU in its bid to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup by allowing several GAA grounds to be part of the bidding process.

"Of course it was the right thing to do. If the GAA can help bring a major world event to Ireland, it's good for everyone - inside and outside the Association.

"Opening up Croke Park while Lansdowne Road was being redeveloped was a great success. It took five years to get it through but it happened in the end and worked for everyone," he said.

Clare's call comes at a time when the use of GAA grounds is under scrutiny after the Dromard club in Longford were fined €2,000 for hosting a soccer summer camp last August. However, the Clare motion caters for county grounds only and would not apply to club facilities.

Irish Independent

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