Viva Aviva as stadium’s day of reckoning finally arrives

MARTIN MURPHY never doubted that this day would come. While the Aviva Stadium had its detractors, once planning permission was granted, the stadium director could visualise the gates opening at 1pm as they do today for the O2 Challenge between a Connacht/Munster selection and a team representing Leinster/Ulster (2.30pm).

The attendance has been capped at 45,000 but it will be a full house of 50,000 for the next two games, when Manchester United will take on the cream of the National League crop, before the Republic of Ireland play host to Argentina.

Having watched the stadium grow before his eyes since construction began in May 2007, Murphy now faces a completely different set of challenges.

“It’s a very technical stadium so this has a much bigger staff and they have undergone a lot of training” said Murphy yesterday.

“The biggest challenge is going to be how the public react. We’ll have 45,000 people coming here for the first time. It’s a no smoking stadium so they must observe that.

“They will need to look at the routes and there is a colour-coded system for them.

The advice is to check your ticket and look at the information on it.

“But there will be plenty of people there to help and provide directions.

“We will be asking people to come early and to use public transport.”

As a member of the European Stadium Managers’ Association, Murphy has been able to bounce ideas off his counterparts throughout the continent.

“Jed Poynton at Liverpool and John Beattie of the Emirates (Arsenal’s HQ) have been very generous with their time. It’s been a steep learning curve but I’ve had plenty of help.

A staff of 1,700 will be on duty throughout the day at the Aviva, with the chefs starting before 5am. The rest will be suited and booted by 7am and final checks will commence.

It promises to be an “interesting” and “exciting” day although Murphy won’t get to see much of the game. Having held two more modest events catering for 9,500 and 11,500 people respectively, much has been learned and feedback has been positive.

The prospect of seeing the stadium heaving with punters sets the pulse racing but it also means that there are bound to be some problems along the way.

“Inevitably there’ll be snags but hopefully our systems are such that we can react to them. We’re lucky that there are three matches coming together in close proximity to each other which should allow us to iron out any difficulties. We just want people to come early, follow the instructions and above all to enjoy themselves. And I’m confident they will.”

CONNACHT/MUNSTER: C Boland (Connacht); T Leader (Connacht), D Horgan (Munster), B Sargent (Munster), S Leydon (Connacht); J Holland (Munster), M Dolan (Connacht) Capt.; A Spring (Connacht), K Stokes (Munster), P Mullen (Munster); R O’Herlihy (Munster), D O’Mahony (Munster); S Buckley (Munster), A Conneely (Connacht), D Qualter (Connacht).

Replacements: J Rael (Munster), S Wooton (Connacht), I Mulalrkey (Munster), D Heffernan (Connacht), R Barry (Munster), G Quinn-McDonogh (Munster), J Costigan (Munster), C Quinn (Munster).

LEINSTER/ULSTER: S Coghlan Murray (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), A Kelly (Leinster), L Marshall (Ulster) Capt, A Boyle (Leinster); P Jackson (Ulster), P du Toit (Leinster); J Tracy (Leinster), J Murphy (Ulster), M Moore (Leinster); I Henderson (Ulster), R Hynes (Leinster); S Lecky (Ulster), M McGroarty (Leinster), D McGuigan (Ulster).

Replacements: P Carroll (Leinster), A Warrick (Ulster), M Fallon (Leinster), P Marks (Ulster), C Spence (Ulster), C Marsh (Leinster), M McAuley (Ulster).

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