Monday 19 February 2018

Rugby-GAA links about more than money

Trevor Hogan

As the Irish bid to host the Rugby World Cup gathers momentum, one cannot underestimate the role of the GAA in the whole process.

The GAA's decision last March to support the bid was a massive gesture and possibly underplayed within wider sporting circles. In making their stadiums available, the organisation is essentially making the project viable.

It rivals their decision in initially opening up Croke Park during the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, in terms of how it changes the Irish sporting landscape.

At the grassroots level, more then ever, the GAA face intense competition with the IRFU for players. In rural areas in particular, rugby is growing, and players who would have traditionally taken up Gaelic football are now considering the oval ball. It cannot have been easy for the GAA to allow use of their grounds in view of the threat rugby arguably poses to future levels of participation.

The move symbolises how sport can rise above narrow self-interest. It's a move reciprocated recently, by Ulster rugby who are facilitating a Gaelic football match at Ravenhill to help fundraise for Antrim footballer Anto Finnegan, diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

This can be the template, for what sport and this potential tournament could be about. It cannot simply be down to the €800m it might "bring to the economy."

It has to rise beyond money and tourist head-counts. An Irish Rugby World Cup can bring communities, towns and people across our 32 counties closer together in a way that has never happened before.

Irish Independent

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