Brian Barry discusses the GAA’s controversial plans to build a new stadium close to the M50 in order to better serve the province of Leinster.
There were numerous calls from the GAA public for Dublin to play Leinster Championship games outside Croke Park. GAA President Liam O’Neill has since come out this week and suggested the construction of a 40,000 seater at the ‘convenient’ location of the M50. This proposal is simply implausible.
The argument for the development is that there is no medium sized stadium in Leinster. At present, if Dublin were to venture outside of Croke Park, O’Moore Park in Port Laoise would be the next in line, with a capacity of 27,000. Considering that the Dubs pull in at least 40,000 in the early stages of Leinster, it is financially a non-decision to keep them at Croker.
In O’Neill’s logic, a 40,000 capacity stadium by the M50, which is accessible from all over the province, would provide a substitute to Croke Park for such games. The atmosphere would be electric in a packed house, and it would seemingly solve the problem.
However, it lacks all logic.
This proposed stadium will still be in Dublin. The argument against keeping the Dubs in Croker is in the interest of fairness, as the Jones’ Road venue is effectively a home ground for the Boys in Blue. Would this new ground not keep the Dublin team in Dublin? There would still be the same proportion of Dubs in the stands, and the same amount of traveling supporters. Another consideration is that the area surrounding M50 can be difficult to access with public transport.
During the Celtic Tiger, it was a frequent occurrence that the Dubs would sell out Croker for provincial ties. If and when the Irish economy fully recovers, these attendances will be reached once again. Emigration will halt, and there will be more money in the country, and so all Dublin games will return to Headquarters to facilitate 80,000 fans, rendering the new M50 stadium obsolete.
This new stadium is likely to join the many dormant GAA stadia dotted around the country. There are four GAA specific grounds in Munster alone with capacities of over 40,000. In reality, there is only need for one in the province. Since the Munster Hurling Final of 2013, Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds lay idle for over 12 months, before it was called upon to host the All-Ireland semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo this year.
There are several examples of this. Liam O’Neill’s proposed new stadium would only join this list, and wait for a few days of action in the summer, which could be perfectly accommodated by Croker.
Of course, the elephant in the room which must be addressed is the blatant fact that the GAA would be far better served investing this money in other areas. Be it grassroots, developing the games in weaker counties or abroad, or even upgrading existing grounds there are several projects which are more deserving of such a vast investment.
Essentially, this is a stadium that is not needed, and it would be ludicrous if plans were to progress any further.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.