Wednesday 13 December 2017

Capacity issues may see Dubs' league games move to Croker

Bernard Brogan in action for Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Bernard Brogan in action for Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Dublin could yet be compelled to play their home league matches in Croke Park because of a significant cut to the capacity of Parnell Park.

The national safety work group have completed their report for the Central Competition Controls Committee on venue capacity around the country with a sharp reduction for Dublin's traditional home ground.

Originally in the region of 9,000, according to the audited figures, the latest report has Parnell Park's capacity now at 7,300.

That makes it one of the smaller capacities around – and the Dubs have the biggest support; they have become used to 20,000-plus crowds at their league games over the last two years, when they have played at Croke Park.

Demand issues may compel Dublin to continue playing in Croke Park.

With remedial work, Dublin chairman Andy Kettle said they may be able to get it up by "a few hundred" but he speculated that it wouldn't be any more than 8,000.

Kettle warned this week that the 'Spring Series', which has seen Dublin play their home football league matches in Croke Park in 2011 and 2012, is in doubt because of the absence of a proper support card that would help lift attendances to a viable level.

He admitted that it was a "possibility" that they would have to play their games at Croke Park anyway if CCCC instruct them to do so, but questioned the financial sustainability of that if other games are not brought in on their ticket.

The CCCC are also in receipt of the figures for St Conleth's Park in Newbridge where capacity remains at 6,100.

By carrying out certain works the Kildare County Board can bring that capacity up to 8,500 but that will require an estimated spend of €100,000; and at a time when Croke Park's finance committee have a direct input into the Lilies' financial affairs, generating that money may be difficult. Kildare are adamant that they will play all their home games – against Donegal, Kerry, Dublin and Tyrone – in Newbridge.

A decision on venues for the league is expected over the next 10 days. Kettle had been hoping for a quicker resolution and has already expressed fears that the Cork game will have to be played in Parnell Park.

"Without a suitable double-header, that game would fall short of 20,000. There would be no atmosphere in Croke Park with that crowd and you have to wonder about the opening-up cost," he said.

One of the suggestions in Dublin's Strategic Report brought out in November 2011 was the development of a stadium that would cater for mid-sized crowds, bigger than Parnell Park but smaller than Croke Park.

But Kettle said those plans won't be getting off the ground anytime soon. "There was consensus sought... but Dublin were the only county in favour," he said.

The other contentious venue is McCumhaill Park in Ballybofey, where Donegal hope to play the opening game of their defence of their Ulster and All-Ireland titles against Tyrone in June. The latest capacity audit from the safety committee stands at 12,250.

Donegal are determined to keep home venue for such a big match.

Irish Independent

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