Croke Park and Lansdowne Road – where from here?

The history of the GAA, IRFU and FAI is complex and full of human error. It is better to look to the future and not dwell on how the country got to its present sporting configuration.

Croke Park is a magnificent institution and is now a National Monument, particularly, to the vision and bravery of the GAA people who dared to dream the dream and made it happen. I salute people like Peter Quinn and Liam Mulvihill for what they achieved and of course ex-President Sean Kelly facilitated a great leap forward for national life when the GAA changed their rules and enveloped all of the people of Ireland. It is not rational to hold a prejudice or a grudge against the GAA now because actions speak louder than words. Simply, the GAA has walked the walk.

Now the Aviva Stadium AKA Lansdowne is ready to open. Wrong size, wrong configuration – not fit for purpose. Why? Because the big Rugby matches against England, France and Wales will always fill Croke Park. The GAA needs the big stadium for the Dubs when hyped and the really big fixtures in hurling and football. Soccer will fill the stadium for the nail biters against high ranking countries unless they price themselves out of the country. We can fill Croke Park also against the Boks with a bit of marketing to the South Africans here and in England.

The three Six Nations matches in 2010 will bring in €15 million to the IRFU after match-day costs and paying rent to the GAA. The IRFU makes €5 million per match on standard tickets, corporate boxes and premium level tickets.

The GAA will get €5 million for the three game package. The IRFU get the stadium clean of GAA advertising and is able to get a premium advertising rate due to the success of the national team. The IRFU make more than twice the profit they made at the old Lansdowne Road.


The IRFU is committed to a decade of Lansdowne Road but should try to negotiate its way out of this commitment and return to Croke Park for appropriate games as soon as possible. The necessity for this is obvious.

Look at any Fridays’ Evening Herald and look at the Leinster leagues and see the names listed signalling a proliferation of clubs – Naas, Barnhall, Navan, Coolmine, Unidare, Tullamore, Tullow, Portarlington, Kilkenny, Newbridge, Cill Dara, Enniscorthy, New Ross, Wicklow, Malahide, Stillorgan, Guinness, RCSI, Athboy, Ardee, Swords, Balbriggan, Edenderry, Birr, Tallaght, Clondalkin, AIB, Parkmore, Rathdrum, and Wexford Wanderers. This is in Leinster only. Imagine adding in the boom in Munster. Club adult players, mimi-kids, parents, alikodoos will require tickets. That is to ignore altogether the huge increase in schools playing the game. Where will these tickets come from in a 50,000 seater with a plethora of corporate and pre-sold premium and other tickets? Ignoring this issue is unconscionable.

I hope the IRFU do not ignore the country outside D4, Con and Belfast.

As an aside, can the FAI honour their commitment to the financing of Lansdowne “Aviva” Road?

Declaration. – I am a life member of Lansdowne (primary allegiance), 400 club member and former director of Shamrock Rovers and attended a few meetings on the FAI council for Rovers, family member of Na Fianna GAA club.

So I have a toe in each camp!