Connacht officials have defended their decision to build a new €10m provincial training centre in Mayo, saying there is no danger it will become another 'white elephant' facility.
"It will get far more use than most of our big competition venues, specifically because it will not be a stadium but will, largely, consist of pitches," Connacht secretary John Prenty said yesterday as details of the province's audacious plan came to light.
Connacht officials visited a wide variety of training facilities in Britain, including those of Manchester United and Fulham FC and Sale rugby club, to get ideas for their new project which will have six pitches, an indoor hall and indoor training and meeting facilities.
Yet, with so many counties already building their own 'centres of excellence,' on top of county grounds, questions have been raised as to the wisdom of investing in yet another multi-million euro GAA facility when others often lie idle.
But Prenty said Connacht's proposed new centre will be fully utilised and fill a gap which still exists despite the plethora of recent GAA infrastructure.
"There may be lots of venues around but the problem is that schools cannot get into most of them to play their games," Prenty revealed.
"It is schools, and development squads, who will benefit most from this."
Insiders say that the €10m costs being mentioned are exaggerated, but there is no doubt that the facility will need heavy investment.
Prenty said Connacht Council will largely fund it themselves, but will apply for Lottery funding and grant aid from Croke Park, for the new venture on a 57-acre site at Greenwood, in the parish of Bakan, half way between Ballyhaunis and Knock.
Connacht Council President Larry Quinn (Sligo) said the venture has received full backing from all five counties in the province and from Croke Park.
"When I took over as president almost two years ago the idea of a centre of excellence for Connacht was put to me," Quinn said.
"From that moment I started to work on the project and I am delighted to say that it is now at quite an advanced stage.
"With headquarters now in a position to help out financially, it was a massive boost to us that GAA president Nicky Brennan gave our proposals the thumbs up," he added.
"We hope to finalise the plans for this exciting new development over the next few months.
"The site is as close to suiting every club in the province as you could get," said an enthusiastic Quinn.
"There are over 100 clubs within 40 minutes of it and it will benefit every GAA person from under eight right up to inter-county players.
"It will be of special benefit to schools and colleges -- particularly for teachers as they will no longer have the nightmare of trying to get pitches to play their games," he added.
"The list of those who will reap the rewards of this new centre of excellence is just endless."