A new era for Munster Rugby as redeveloped Irish Independent Park officially opened
AN EXCITING new era dawned for Munster Rugby as Defence Minister Simon Coveney officially opened the redeveloped Irish Independent Park.
The €3.2m project has seen the famous Cork ground get a new West Stand and a covered East Terrace with capacity eventually being increased from 8,200 to more than 10,000.
The project also includes new changing rooms, a state-of-the-art press room, a medical facility and enhanced corporate and hospitality space.
Mr Coveney formally opened the new ground before Munster’s Guinness Pro12 clash with table-toppers Glasgow Warriors.
“This is a great achievement for Munster Rugby and for sports in general in Cork. Irish Independent Park is one of a number of vitally important projects including the new Cork convention centre and the redevelopment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh that will transform the social infrastructure of the city,” the Fine Gael TD said.
He admitted Irish Independent Park holds very special memories for him as he played there for both University College Cork (UCC) and Crosshaven.
"I will never forget the game against Cork Constitution because while it may have been an ordinary fixture for them, it was a huge cup match for us in Crosshaven," he said.
Munster Rugby chief executive, Garrett Fitzgerald, said it was a very proud day for their Cork home.
“Munster Rugby is thrilled with the newly developed Irish Independent Park and the new West Stand is a welcomed addition to this historic ground.”
“It is a valuable addition to the rugby landscape in Cork and the province. With a venue such as this in Munster we hope to attract further events for the locality.”
Independent News & Media (INM) chairman, Leslie Buckley, said it ranked as one of Ireland's most exciting sports projects.
“This is hallowed ground for Munster rugby and the project has involved a hugely impressive redevelopment. The Irish Independent has a strong affinity with Munster rugby which is underpinned by our weekly rugby pull out exclusively for our Munster readers,” he said.
“We now look forward to positively and successfully building upon that relationship and bringing not just great rugby games to Irish Independent Park but also concerts and other events.”
Mr Buckley said the 10 year partnership is particularly special for him as he lives not far from the famous ground.
It was also a special night for the Broderick family from Currow in Kerry - the village that produced rugby legend Moss Keane - as Tadhg Broderick (12) was Munster's match mascot thanks to the Share A Dream Foundation and Bank of Ireland.
"It's a wonderful stadium and we're all so excited for Tadhg to be leading Munster out onto the pitch tonight," his parents Niall and Maria said.
INM marketing director, Geoff Lyons, said it was a great day for everyone involved.
“Independent News & Media is a proud partner to Munster Rugby and is delighted to officially open the newly developed Irish Independent Park.”
“Irish Independent Park is a further demonstration of our continued support in helping to encourage and build the game of rugby in schools, clubs and at provincial level.”
“We look forward to seeing some fantastic games in this superb stadium in the heart of Cork city and reporting on them in the Irish Independent and on independent.ie.”
The ground first opened in 1940 and ranks as one of the most famous rugby facilities in the country.
It witnessed the first ever triumph by an Irish provincial side over international tourists when Australia were beaten in 1967.
In 1973 it also saw Munster earn a famous draw against the touring All Blacks.
In 1992, the ground hosted one of Munster’s finest achievements when Australia, the reigning world champions, fell to a famous defeat.