Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

No Croker choker when it comes to the big vote

It takes considerable effort, plus a particular brand of folly, to squander a no-lose opportunity.

Yet the GAA will do that today if it rejects Clare’s proposal that Croke Park remains available for rugby and soccer once Lansdowne Road re-opens.

Under the terms of the original arrangement, Croke Park (left) was opened up only while Lansdowne was undergoing redevelopment. That will be completed next spring so Croke Park will be again locked unless the GAA changes the rule to allow it to remain open permanently.

The IRFU and FAI say they won’t need Croke Park once they have their own stadium.

Fine, but the GAA should guard against taking the blame for the outcry which will resound around the country in early 2011 when Ireland host France and England in Six Nations rugby.

That’s when 32,500 people who have grown used to attending rugby games in 82,500-capacity Croke Park discover that there’s no room at the 50,000 Lansdowne Road. If the GAA re-applies the ban, the IRFU can quite legitimately argue they had no choice but to play at Lansdowne, while Croke Park lies idle.

And who is blamed by the 32,500 who can’t get tickets? The GAA, of course.

However, if the GAA leaves Croke Park open for business, the IRFU will have to do the explaining to angry sports fans. If the IRFU/FAI don’t want to use Croke Park any more after 2010 it’s their choice, but it’s them rather than the GAA who should face the consequences when hosting games where demand for tickets exceeds 50,000.

A very simple choice faces GAA delegates. Support the proposal to leave Croke Park open, thus ensuring that the GAA is safely parked on high ground when the sporting public revolts — as they most assuredly will — in 2011.

Reject the proposal, and take the blame for denying 32,500 people the chance to attend international games while the real culprits escape.

Put it like that and today’s debate should be over in minutes. All the more so when the clear benefits of opening Croke Park in the first place must now be apparent to even the most closed minds.

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