Campaign to open up GAA grounds goes on

The man behind last weekend’s failed attempt to open up GAA grounds to other sports says the campaign is only just beginning.

Former Munster Council chairman Noel Walsh devised the Congress motion seeking to open up all county grounds to non-GAA sports.

A two-thirds majority vote was required to amend the present rule though it received just 37.9% backing in Cavan.

Miltown-Malbay club man Walsh said the reality is that such an ambitious proposal was never going to succeed at the first attempt.

Rather, he predicted a sustained fight on the issue over the coming years and pointed to last Saturday’s near 40% backing as a great start.

“You would hardly have expected to get that passed on the first attempt,” said Walsh. “It took five attempts to open up Croke Park.

“The reality is there wasn’t that great excitement about this motion which the opening of Croke Park got 10 years ago. The big publicity drive through the media wasn’t there. But when this builds momentum, we will be able to pursue it a lot more. It’s going to take time and the figures for a first vote represented a very good backing considering the proposer wasn’t even there to speak. There was no huge effort to co-ordinate any support so basically this is 40% of the GAA saying, ‘Yes, we want this’ without any sort of conversation even taking place. They are of the same opinion that, really, what have we got to fear from doing this?”

Walsh was unable to attend Congress in Cavan himself for personal reasons. He said he was disappointed not to get the opportunity to put forward his case for allowing Central Council the discretion to open county grounds.

Ahead of the Congress vote, GAA director general Paraic Duffy sounded a warning note to delegates when he stated it was a ‘serious motion with serious implications’.

“I would have liked to say to Congress that if you’re going to have a facility like Croke Park which can be used for financial gain when opened, as well as good will, then it should apply to every county ground in the association,” continued Walsh. “Most counties, including my own, are finding it hard to make ends meet and if an occasion should arise, why shouldn’t they have the same opportunity as Croke Park?”

Walsh, a key figure in the drive to open up Croke Park in 2005, believes a couple of GAA grounds in particular could come in useful for rugby matches.

“If Munster are involved in a major rugby game and just down the road from Thomond Park is the Gaelic Grounds with twice the capacity, wouldn’t that make more sense?” he said.

“The same in Connacht. An occasion may very well arise where Connacht have a huge game in the European Cup that 30,000 people might want to watch. What harm accommodating them at Pearse Stadium in Salthill?”


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