The Dublin county board and Leinster Council have both investigated the possibility of such a project in recent times but distanced themselves from it on a cost basis and Páraic Duffy admits it will be some time before the first sod is turned.
“The issue of a stadium is still on the agenda but it isn’t something that is going to happen at the moment,” said Duffy. “There is a general recognition that we need a stadium of around 20-25,000 capacity in that Meath/Kildare/Dublin area but at the moment it is not realistic. Funding is the issue,” he confirmed.
It had been mooted the GAA would commit to playing games at such a stadium, which was to be developed on the Sports Campus Ireland site at Abbotstown, but there are no longer plans to build an arena of that size there. The entire Abbotstown project has been dogged by inaction and a lack of funding in the last decade but it was revealed yesterday that €19m of government money will be directed towards the next phase of its development between now and 2016.
Four of the country’s major sporting bodies — the GAA, FAI, IRFU and the Irish Hockey Association — have agreed to develop their own facilities in Dublin 15, including pitches and changing rooms.
The GAA will construct an exact replica of Croke Park which it is hoped will end requests from teams to train on the real thing prior to games at HQ while the FAI and IRFU intend to create similar replicas of the Aviva Stadium’s surface and dimensions.
Duffy envisages the facility being used by elite development squads, for Féile and Sigerson/Fitzgibbon weekends and by various other club and county teams who would no longer need to go to the expense of organising training trips abroad.
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne confirmed it will eventually be the base of operations for all Irish representative squads while his FAI counterpart John Delaney was less committal about how often the senior Republic of Ireland side would use it.
“We had a meeting about it with Leinster Council and we have met with Dublin county board,” said Duffy of the GAA’s campus plans. “We are going to bring all the parties together to make sure we get maximum value but we intend to proceed quickly. We would hope the infrastructure is in by the end of the year.”
Only €2m of the €19m provided by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has been earmarked for the construction of the Gaelic, soccer, rugby and hockey pitches with those bodies also contributing their own funds. The rest is set aside for work on an access road, a multi-purpose pavilion, a new HQ for Irish Sport which will house 19 governing bodies, €1.5m for an upgrade to the National Aquatic Centre and €5m for a revamp to the listed Abbotstown House.