Saturday 16 November 2019

Dubs invest €2m to set up base at GAA Centre of Excellence

GAA director general Páraic Duffy
GAA director general Páraic Duffy

Liam Kelly

DUBLIN has a €2m war chest to invest in the GAA Centre of Excellence to be built at the National Sports Campus site in Blanchardstown.

That money, which was earmarked by Dublin for a multi-purpose training and playing venue at Rathcoole, is now likely to be ploughed into a deal with the GAA for a permanent training base in Blanchardstown.

But GAA director general Paraic Duffy emphasised that this is a project for all 32 counties, and not just the Dubs. Duffy, and GAA president Liam O'Neill, were joined by Leo Varadkar, Minister for Sport, Tourism, and Transport, and Sean Benton, Chair of the National Sports Campus Development Authority, for the sod-turning ceremony yesterday.

Work on the Centre of Excellence is set to start in a fortnight. The Centre will cost in excess of €8m and will feature five Prunty pitches, all with floodlights, four of them full-size and one with the exact dimensions of the pitch at Croke Park.

It will include a pavilion building with 10 changing-rooms, physio area, meeting rooms, a dining facility and reception area. There is also provision for a covered stand to cater for 400 spectators, and a state-of-the-art hurling wall.

The development is a landmark move for the GAA into the National Sports Campus development.

Duffy outlined the vision: "We want this to be used to the absolute maximum.

"Given the huge population and demand in the greater Dublin area, we would see Dublin using it extensively. But it's not only for Dublin. Dundalk is an hour from here and so is Gorey. Most of the population of the country is within an hour from here.

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"We would envisage counties using it for blitzes, festivals, Fitzgibbons, Sigersons and international teams. Dublin will definitely be using it a lot but it's primarily a national centre."

O'Neill echoed Duffy's sentiments.

Dublin chairman Andy Kettle confirmed that investing the €2m planned for Rathcoole into the Blanchardstown venue would be a good option for the county.

"That has to be negotiated. Perhaps that €2m could buy 'x' amounts of usage, but the ongoing operational costs will be fairly substantial," he said.

"That has all to be worked out, but Tom Ryan in Croke Park and John Costello will, I'm sure, be able to sit down and come to some agreement on that. But yes, the €2m will come into play."

Whatever about the initial development costs, Duffy and O'Neill are well aware that the centre will be costly to maintain, and will need plenty of usage to pay its way.

In that context, having the Dubs on site as permanent tenants can work to the mutual benefit of the Association and Dublin GAA.

The facilities will be extensive enough to cater for Dublin and for a variety of other usage by clubs and other units of the GAA.

Kettle sees this as the way forward.

"Our interest is huge because we don't have a Centre of Excellence. Our county teams are training all over the place. This gives us an opportunity to centralise it," he said.

"As far as Dublin are concerned, it is a total win-win."

Irish Independent

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