O’Neill: Members will back rugby bid

GAA president Liam O’Neill is confident the overwhelming majority of the organisation’s members will be behind Central Council’s decision to make six of the grounds available for a Rugby World Cup bid by the IRFU.

On Saturday, Central Council agreed unanimously to draft a motion seeking to amend rule five of the GAA Official Guide so as to make available six GAA stadiums to the IRFU for a feasibility study into making a bid for the 2023 or 2027 competitions.

The proposal will be voted on at Congress in Derry next March.

With a 2023 bid deadline in the third quarter of next year, the IRFU have sought access to Croke Park, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Fitzgerald Stadium, the Gaelic Grounds, Pearse Stadium and Casement Park as part of their prospective submission.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar has already indicated his support in principle for the idea of Ireland hosting a World Cup.

As the International Rugby Board (IRB) stipulate that the World Cup final must be played at a venue with a capacity of 60,000 or more, Croke Park would be in line to stage the decider.

Like they did when opening Croke Park to international rugby and soccer games in 2005, O’Neill believes the GAA have to put the needs of the country ahead of their own.

“The position the country is in at the moment and the possibility that we could host one of the major events in world sports on this island is something that people have to look at and beyond their own personal interests and misgivings.”

However, as well as benefiting financially from such a deal, the GAA would also see the upgrading of their stadiums to stage World Cup games paid for by the IRFU.

O’Neill said the GAA would be honoured to contribute to the staging of a rugby World Cup.

“The GAA draws its strength from the community it serves up and down this country. If our support for this bid is helpful to bringing the huge economic benefit and status that the competition would bring to this island I think we have to be big enough to realise that. I think the vast majority of GAA people would be proud of the fact that we have the stadia that the IRFU sees as being vitally important to the success of this bid.

“I do think the organisation would be proud to be part of something this big.”

Responding to the GAA’s statement on Saturday, the IRFU released one of their own. It read: “The number of stadia that would be required for the tournament has not yet been decided, but a key element will be to establish the number of locations and venues available before a feasibility study is undertaken to determine Ireland’s overall capacity to host the tournament.”

O’Neill anticipates there will be opposition to the idea.

He said: “It’s good that people would put their views forwards and both sides of the argument are seen.”

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