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‘New Lansdowne Road’ to open next month

It was the field of dreams on which the highest and lowest moments in Irish sport were played out.

Triple crown victories for the international rugby team in 1982, 1985 and 2004; Jason McAteer's wonder goal against Holland in 2001, paving the way for Ireland to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

And wretched scenes in February 1995 when an Ireland-England international had to be abandoned when English football holligans rioted after their team went a goal down.

Next month the rebuilt 50,000-seater Lansdowne Road will open for business, welcoming the soccer and rugby teams home after a three-year exile to Croke Park.

Built at a cost of €410m (£369.3m), of which €190m (£171.1m) came from the taxpayer, it will replace the world's oldest continuously-used stadium which has been the home of Irish rugby since 1872 and soccer since the 1980s.

Up to 1,000 construction workers are completing the fit-out of the renamed Aviva Stadium before it is officially handed over to owners the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in four weeks' time.

The players of yesterday did not have a fraction of the facilities available to the professional sportsmen who will grace the venue from August.

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There's a hydrotherapy pool in the basement, spacious dressing rooms and medical facilities, and warm-up rooms with ceilings high enough to allow line-outs to be practised pre-match.

And it's not just the pitch that will be green.

A four-bin recycling system, waterless urinals, compostable burger wrappers and use of harvested rain to keep the pitch watered will make it one of the most environmentally-friendly sports stadia in the world.

Sports fans coming to Lansdowne will use one of five entrances — two more than in the old venue — with an emphasis on the use of public transport to keep the crowd moving.

The official opening will be on May 14 when 1,500 people attend a black-tie function.

The first match played will be a provincial rugby tie where a combined Leinster/Ulster team will play a Connacht/Ulster side on August 7.

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