Wednesday 18 September 2019

GAA back rugby world cup bid

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

IRELAND’S bid to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup is likely to receive a significant boost today with the GAA beginning the process of making Croke Park and some other grounds available if the big event comes here.

The Irish Independent understands that the matter will be raised at the GAA’s Central Council meeting, where a proposal to support the IRFU’s World Cup initiative is expected to be accepted in principle. The IRFU indicated last February that it was considering applying to host the 2023 World Cup, but that it would be contingent on strong Government backing.



That’s likely to be forthcoming, but since Lansdowne Road and Thomond Park are the only rugby grounds currently suitable for a major tournament, the GAA’s participation was always going to be necessary if Ireland were to have any chance of convincing the IRB that it was feasible to stage the World Cup here.



As GAA regulations currently stand, Central Council has the power to make Croke Park available for sports other than Gaelic games, but it would require a rule amendment by Congress to open the various grounds around the country.



However, it’s highly probable that the GAA membership would back the change in order to strengthen Ireland’s bid for one of world sport’s glamour events.

Apart from Croke Park, the high-capacity GAA grounds which could host major World Cup games are Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Semple Stadium, Casement Park, Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney and the Limerick Gaelic Grounds.

Smaller grounds which could be used include Pearse Stadium in Galway, McHale Park in Castlebar, Portlaoise's O'Moore Park, O'Connor Park, Tullamore, Nowlan Park in Kilkenny and Wexford Park.

However, it's the availability of high-capacity stadiums in various parts of the country which would add serious weight to Ireland's bid.

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Croke Park would dovetail with Lansdowne Road as the main hub, with Cork, Belfast and Limerick also in the loop. The Cork County Board are in the final stages of planning a major redevelopment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh, transforming it into a 45,000 all-seater stadium.

Meanwhile, Casement Park, Belfast will have a 40,000 capacity when the redevelopment is completed in 2015. The timing of the rugby World Cup is ideal from a GAA perspective as it would come after the All-Ireland finals, running right through October.

Also, the use of several grounds would bring millions of euro into GAA coffers -- they earned €36m from renting Croke Park for soccer and rugby from 2007 to 2010.

England stages the Rugby World Cup in 2015, followed by Japan in 2019.

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