Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Rugby matches, tiddlywinks and gay pride parades all set for Croke Park in 2009.

Two years ago - when I was still just a wide-eyed student of journalism dreaming of one day getting to report on Limerick city council meetings - I wrote a letter to a national newspaper, arguing that Croke Park should be opened up for the Heineken Cup semi-final if Munster and Leinster were to clash at that stage.

At the time, Lansdowne Road was not available and both teams had qualified for the quarter-finals. As it turned out, neither went any farther so my argument was moot.

However, that didn't stop a barrage of abusive letters - one of them 12 typed pages long - being sent to my address which, in my naivety, I had allowed to be printed in its entirety. I treasured each and every one of these hate-spewing letters as proof that I was capable of getting a reaction out of people with just a few words by firmly laying out my position on something.

That the reaction I provoked was - for the most part - one of temple-bursting rage made it all the better. One letter started off 'Dear Idiot'. Several of my abusers called me a 'West Brit'. If memory serves me correctly, only one provided me with a return address.

It was glorious. I could almost hear them lashing their hurleys in fury against every solid surface in their cave after reading my letter to the editor.

One particularly warped individual from the North even predicted that opening up Croke Park was just another ploy by the Brits to get their grubby mits back on the republic and I was just too darned stupid to see it.

Of course my letter also prompted a number of well laid-out, reasonable reponses. But they were mostly sent to and printed in the newspaper that had printed the original letter. Two subsequent letters from Your Truly were also printed as the argument grew legs over the next fortnight.

Anyway the point of this is that once again the scenario has arisen whereby Munster and Leinster could well face off in a European semi-final and there may be no choice but for the game to be played outside of Ireland.

I'm aware that there is every possibility the GAA could open up Croke Park for such a fixture. But I'm also certain that there are still those whose eyes will water, toes curl and rectums tighten at the very idea of the ground opening up not only for internationals but also for provincial rugby games. I'd like to hear your reactions again guys.

With that in mind, I will once again lay out my position that Croke Park was built with the money of taxpayers (many of whom have never even watched a GAA game) and - if not quite a national stadium - then the ground should at least strive to serve the interests of all Irish citizens, GAA supporters or not.

If demand is sufficient amongst the Irish public to make an event commercially viable and it doesn't conflict with an existing GAA fixture or present a serious threat to the stadium and its surface, then it should take place in Croker whether its a Heineken Cup game, the Tiddlywinks Championships or a gay pride parade.

No home address this time I'm afraid, so abuse will have to be restricted to the comments section.


Bock the Robber said...

Presuming both Munster and Leinster make it to the semis, I think the Fíor-Ghael lads will have to swallow their GAA Pride and take the money. Times are tight.

Anonymous said...

You seem to think that Croke Park was built entirely on tax payers money. Not so! Croke Park was grant aided to the tune of 119 million - 19 million gov funding and 100 million lotto funding. Compare Landsdowne Road. Grant aid 191 million of which 127 million was government funding - thats more than 6 times more gov. funding than Croke Park. Part of the 19 million gov funding was to have Croke Park ready for the Special Olympics.If the IRFU had been as far-sighted as the GAA there would be no issue with regard to where rugby matches are played. How the Ospreys must be laughing at Munster rugby for getting into such public argument as to where the semi-final will be played. Win the match first. By the way, how much funding did Thomond Park receive? Considering that you have a GAA background (and you were'nt a bad player either with Liberties) you should be a little bit more objective and honest and not having a swipe at the GAA because it might be controversial and appeal to the anti-gaa brigade of whom there are many.I would love to see the semi-final in Croke Park as it is a high class stadium. By demanding that the match should be played there on the grounds that it was built on taxpayers money, you are aligning yourself with bitter begruders and not portraying yourself as an objective journalist. You have an entertaining style of writing but should not appear to entertain populist prejudices on other sports.

dashoge said...

Some fair points Anonymous (I'm presuming you're not one of the many anonymous letter-writers given the lack of spelling errors) but also a few corrections are necessary.

It is questionable if the Gov funding for Croke Park was only 19 million. In fact, the Sports Minister said in 2007 that the figure was 114 million.


Anyway, I don't think it's overly relevant whether the money came directly from the lotto or tax funds. After all, who buys the lottery tickets? Taxpayers ( again many of whom have no affiliation to the GAA)
Who runs the lotto? An Post, on behalf of the Finance Minister.

For the record, I have just as much a rugby as hurling background but I have to admit that, for me, nothing can equal a good game of hurling for entertainment value.

I most certainly am not alligning myself with the bitter begrudgers of GAA. For me, they are no better than the ill-informed trogs who think rugby is the exclusive reserve of a privately-educated minority.

I'm not saying Croke Park should be open for use for anyone who calls dibs first, just that a stadium built using the money of a wide spectrum of people (GAA supporters or not) should serve all the people, as long as it doesn't interfere with the original tenants use of the ground.

I think we're probably agreeing on most points.
Of course the GAA are perfectly entitled to prioritise GAA events in Croke Park but must there really be such a hullabaloo every time the question arises of using it for an alternative sport?

If it's objectivity you're looking for then I think the same rules should apply to Thomond Park as long as it doesn't get in the way of the everyday busines of hosting rugby games.

And just one final clarification. Not a bad hurler? You really are too kind but being able to shoulder the shite out of people does not a handy hurler make!

mapstew said...

Any date yet for the Heineken Gay Tiddleywinks Championship?

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.