No sense in Croke Park reverting to ban, says Kelly


CROKE PARK should remain available for soccer and rugby after the Aviva Stadium opens and should continue to be used when the capacity of the new arena is insufficient, former GAA president Seán Kelly has said.

Speaking at the Patrick Kavanagh Weekend in Inniskeen, Co Monaghan, Mr Kelly – now an MEP for Munster – said it would “send out the wrong message” if Croke Park reverted to its ban on other sports when the current exemption ends next year.

Equally, it would make no sense if the Football Association of Ireland and Irish Rugby Football Union insisted on using the Aviva Stadium for all future events, even those that could attract attendances far in excess of its 50,000 capacity.

In an address on GAA Culture post-Lisbon Treaty, Mr Kelly said the 67 per cent of people who voted Yes in October’s referendum had rejected the politics of isolationism. Ireland’s main sporting organisations would be out of tune with this decision if they now reverted to the arrangement that existed before the temporary relaxation of Rule 42.

A side-effect of Croke Park’s use for big rugby and soccer games had been to increase the demand for tickets, the MEP said.

He respected the FAI and IRFU’s contractual obligations towards its sponsors. But considering that 75,000 people paid to see the Irish rugby team play South Africa on Saturday – “in what was effectively just a friendly” – there could be no justification for confining all future games to a 50,000-capacity stadium.

Mr Kelly praised those who had opposed the opening of Croke Park to other sports – “especially in Ulster” – for the way they accepted the decision and closed ranks. He expressed confidence that next year’s GAA congress would agree a motion to make the stadium permanently available.

As the GAA’s 125th anniversary passes, Mr Kelly said it remained an anomaly that Michael Collins had never been formally honoured by the organisation.

Bearing in mind the political undertones of such a move, however, he suggested Collins should be jointly recognised with Éamon de Valera. The two men could have similar competitions or cups named in their honour.

The 2009 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Prize was awarded to Martin Dyar from Swinford, Co Mayo. Described by adjudicator Brian Lynch as “a new and original voice in Irish writing, an exciting poet at the beginning of what is bound to be a big career”, Dr Dyar is a former winner of both the Strokestown International Poetry Award and the Raftery Award and lectures in medical ethics at Trinity College Dublin.

Joint runners-up for the prize were Teresa Lally from Inchicore, Dublin, and Shirley McClure, from Bray, Co Wicklow.