Minister hails historic deal

SPORTS Minister John O’Donoghue has applauded the GAA for allowing soccer and rugby to be played in Croke Park next year.

“The people of Ireland have a passion for sport and will applaud this initiative during the period when Lansdowne Road is not available. It removes the spectre of Ireland playing ‘home’ internationals outside of the state, a prospect which would do little for our standing overseas.

“Instead, we now have the reality of access to one of Europe’s finest stadia, which the GAA has developed at its own initiative, supported by the Government, and which is a splendid showcase for our national games.

“The FAI and the IRFU are to be congratulated on reaching this agreement with the GAA, which reflects credit on their respective sports, ensures that their athletes will have renewed momentum in playing home games and retains a major commercial spin-off for Ireland,” added Mr O’Donoghue.

GAA Munster Council chairman Sean Fogarty backed the deal but added: “There are quite a number of complex issues surrounding the opening of the stadium, and it wouldn’t be right for me to comment in any detail until I know what has been agreed.”

Tipperary chairman John Costigan said: “We go along with the decision that has been announced. We supported the motion on the basis that the stadium would be open for the duration of the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road and that the agreement would cease once the work had been completed.

“That remains our stance.”

Donegal secretary Seamus O’Donnell also welcomed the announcement.

“As one of two Ulster counties who supported the opening of the stadium, we are pleased to be part of this momentous decision, albeit on a temporary basis.”

However his counterpart in Tyrone, Dominic McCaughey, expects some negative reaction. “Once the Congress decision went through, timing was the only issue left to be resolved. That has come to pass now but I would expect there will be a reaction to it from within the county,” he said.

Ulster Council chairman, Miceál Greenan who spoke out against the opening of Croke Park at last year’s Congress, refused to comment on the matter.

Newly-elected Cork chairman Mick Dolan said his committee will want to study the agreement in depth before making any statement. Cork were one of the counties who opposed the opening of the stadium at last year’s Congress.

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