Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

Garth Brooks shows Ulster sport way out of Maze

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

With Jim Gracey

Published 04/02/2014

Aerial view of the Maze site
Aerial view of the Maze site

News that the mega Garth Brooks and One Direction concerts at Croke Park later this year are set to bring in over €5m for the GAA again had us wondering what might have been had the political football of the Maze project not been kicked into touch.

Tomorrow never came for the Maze. And, in retrospect, the original 40,000-seater dream of a multi-sport arena on the site of the old jail was probably too ambitious and gave its opponents a free ride on the White Elephant bandwagon.

Twenty to twenty five thousand would have been more realistic. But the Maze wasn't killed in a numbers game.

It perished on the insistence by unionist politicians of various hues that 20,000 or 40,000, there wouldn't be a stadium within a beagle's gowl of any Hunger Strike museum. Then they agreed to the Hunger Strike museum, and having done so once, watch them do it again when the current hissy-fit with the Shinners subsides.

No matter. Instead of One Direction, we've gone in three and the development of football, rugby and gaelic games here can only benefit by following the Croke example by maximising their revenues from other headline events.

Carl Frampton has talked of boxing at Ravenhill, Casement will form part of the Ireland 2023 Rugby World Cup bid and the new Windsor offers many possibilities.

Sport has always been the great survivor and unifier in Northern Ireland... they didn't make it together but the three major sports are poised to prosper in their new citadels in spite of, rather than because of, the friends in low places who scuppered the Maze for all the wrong reasons.

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