Munster branch denies decision has been taken on stadium

AS fears for the future of Thomond Park intensified last night, the president of the Munster branch of the IRFU denied a decision to pull out has been taken.

However, Ken Lyons warned they have drawn up a contingency plan which includes moving major games to Cork’s enlarged Musgrave Park or to a new stadium to be built on a green field site if they cannot double the capacity of Thomond Park.

Talks between the IRFU and local residents in Knockalisheen Road to buy out their 16 terraced homes have remained deadlocked. Residents say the €200,000 per house on offer will not enable them purchase replacement homes.

The IRFU say it is essential to enlarge the stadium’s capacity from 13,500 to 26,000.

Mayor of Limerick Diarmuid Scully intervened last night and called on the residents and the rugby bosses to reopen talks.

“I would hope that everybody will give major consideration for what is the good of Limerick. We are not going to keep big games there out of a sense of nostalgia. The IRFU will do what they would consider to be the sensible thing and move big games to a redeveloped Musgrave Park in Cork with a much higher capacity.”

Mr Lyons, who is president of the Munster branch and a member of the Thomond Park Development Committee, said the houses will have to be knocked down if Munster’s spiritual home is to be redeveloped.

“We are going to explore every avenue, but it would seem that to enlarge the ground we would have to proceed with the design plan which would need the houses.”

He said a fair offer had been made to purchase the houses at Knockalisheen Road. Mr Lyons added: “But I would not want anybody to point a finger at these residents. Everyone must respect a person’s right to live where they have lived all their life.

“We did not approach them with a take it or leave it offer. We have offered money which is more than the value of the houses. It would be fantastic for Munster rugby if a package could be put together.

“When you are dealing with 16 people you must respect that each has rights to remain. But a purchase of the houses would be the obvious solution to get the capacity of Thomond Park up to what is needed.”

The chief executive of the IRFU Philip Browne is understood to strongly favour moving if the development plan cannot proceed.

But Mr Lyons said any decision will rest with Munster rugby and not with the IRFU bosses in Dublin.

“It would have to go to a full Munster branch meeting to decide to stay or not in Thomond Park. The chief executive officer can make a recommendation, but it will be the Munster clubs 36 representatives on the Munster branch who will decide.”

Mayor Scully said the development of Thomond Park was incredibly important for the city and it’s international prestige.

“Thomond Park puts us on the world map.”

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