THE GAA’s headquarters in Galway, Pearse Stadium, will not be available to Connacht to play Heineken Cup matches in the autumn should Eric Elwood’s side finally make it into Europe’s premier competition.
However, GAA bosses in Galway are not opposed to the 34,000 capacity Salthill venue being used at some stage in the future but point out that it will require a decision at GAA Congress to allow other sports be played at the venue.
Connacht are the only side in the Magners League not to have played in the Heineken Cup but if Leinster defeat Northampton Saints in the final of the competition on Saturday week, then Elwood’s men will finally step up next season.
The Sportsground remains the poorest venue in the Magners League and while temporary stands have been installed in the past to host big games against Toulon and Harlequins, Connacht’s lack of a suitable big venue has not been resolved.
“At present it would take a decision by Congress before the way could be opened to play rugby. Congress will not take place until next April, although a special Congress could be called,” said Gerry Larkin, the chairman of the Galway County Board.
“We have not been approached by Connacht or anyone else seeking the use of Pearse Stadium. It would have to be referred to Croke Park.
“Personally, I would have no problem with rugby being played there and most GAA people would have a similar view. There is a much more broadminded approach to these things these days. It’s not that long ago that it would have been unthinkable for Galway to be playing in the Leinster hurling championship or the Queen visiting Croke Park.
“Things move on. The Connacht coach Eric Elwood played football for Galway and the captain John Muldoon, a neighbour of my own, played minor hurling for Galway. I wish them well and hope they get into the Heineken Cup.
“It would be a shame if Connacht had to move a big rugby match out of Galway or the province but as things stand, it would require a decision by GAA Congress to make Pearse Stadium available to them.”
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