GAA stadium vote will give ‘impetus’ to World cup bid

The IRFU last night welcomed the GAA’s decision to make stadiums available to their potential Rugby World Cup bid in Ireland in either 2023 or 2027.

With 93% of delegates voting in favour of the motion, Congress in Derry on Saturday wholeheartedly endorsed giving Central Council the power to authorise the use of Croke Park and other GAA stadiums for the tournament should it be staged here.

The vote was complimented by Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring while the IRFU, who asked the GAA to put the motion on the Clár, added their gratitude.

“We’re absolutely delighted and very thankful to the GAA membership for making the decision at their Congress to make their facilities available for Rugby World Cup,” IRFU communications and media manager Karl Richardson said.

“We’ve had a very good relationship with the GAA over the last number of years from our time at Croke Park and this gives us more impetus for a possible Rugby World Cup bid, which we’re examining at the moment.”

Eight years on from Congress’ landmark decision to open Croke Park to international rugby andsoccer, when 67.9% of delegates backed the gesture as Lansdowne Road underwent development, GAA director general Páraic Duffy said the vote had highlighted the organisation’s maturity.

“As it transpired, opening up Croke Park was a positive for the association. The opposition was about fear, how it could damage the association etc. Those fears proved to be totally unfounded.

“I think we have matured as an organisation as a result and I think the lack of debate wasn’t too far from unanimous. I think it showed we have nothing to worry about, we have nothing to be afraid of.”

Limerick secretary Mike O’Riordan supported the idea but highlighted some secondary schools in the county are preventing students from playing Gaelic games in favour of rugby and soccer. “The GAA should discuss [that] with the relative bodies,” he said.

It is understood the IRFU have requested Croke Park, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Fitzgerald Stadium, the Gaelic Grounds, Pearse Stadium and Casement Park as possible venues, with GAA HQ earmarked as the potential World Cup final venue.

Semple Stadium had not been included due to lack of hotel facilities but the IRFU’s Richardson would not speculate on which stadiums were under consideration while the feasibility study commissioned by the IRFU was being examined by Minister Varadkar’s department.

The study also considers infrastructure, ticketing, travel and transport and projected visitor numbers, with a boost of at least €250 million to the Irish economy being estimated for a successful bid.

“The Minister and the Government and the government of Northern Ireland have been incredibly supportive of the process and yesterday’s Congress vote was a really big step towards putting a bid together,” Richardson added.

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