GAA boss Horan wants Croke Park reserved for games in July/August

Michael Bublé to take stage in HQ as Leinster hurling final replay switched to Thurles

Kilkenny’s James Maher in action during the Leinster final against Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kilkenny’s James Maher in action during the Leinster final against Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

The strange oddity of Michael Bublé taking centre stage at Croke Park while the Leinster hurling final replay goes to Semple Stadium in Thurles is not being lost on the GAA.

 With arguably more headline acts on the stage than on the pitch so far this summer, Association president John Horan has stated his preference that Croke Park be reserved for games only during the months of July and August.

The all-seated Bublé concert at Croke Park this Saturday evening, with support from Emeli Sandé, was announced last November, one of the four concerts approved for GAA headquarters this summer, even though Croke Park only has planning permission to host three “special events” per year under its licence granted by Dublin City Council.

Next month it will also host the Festival of Families event, as Pope Francis makes the first papal trip to Ireland in nearly 40 years. Described as a “faith-based cultural concert” it did not require a special licence by Dublin City Council despite becoming the fifth big non-GAA event to be held at the stadium this year. 

Special event licences

Event promoters can apply for additional special event licences, but Dublin City Council last month said the Croke Park concert during Pope Francis’s visit will not require another licence. It was already agreed that, because of the papal visit, the All-Ireland football final would be put back a week to Sunday, September 2nd, having originally been earmarked for the Sunday, August 26th, after Congress 2017 voted to move both the hurling and football deciders to August. 

The World Meeting of Families is taking place in Dublin from August 21st-26th, Pope Francis presiding at the closing ceremonies on the final two days. On Saturday, August 25th, he will take part in the Festival of Families in Croke Park, before being chief celebrant at Holy Mass in the Phoenix Park on the Sunday. 

Dublin football manager Jim Gavin had expressed concern over the frequent turnover of the pitch covering at Croke Park this summer

In May, Croke Park was the venue for the Rolling Stones concert, after Aiken Promotions were granted special permission to stage that event; in June, Croke Park also hosted two Taylor Swift concerts, the weekend before the Leinster football final between Dublin and Laois. 

Dublin football manager Jim Gavin had expressed concern over the frequent turnover of the pitch covering at Croke Park this summer; after Saturday’s Bublé concert, Croke Park will next stage the first of the new Super-8 quarter-final stages the following weekend, July 14th/15th. 

“It is demanding,” said Gavin, who also expressed his confidence that Croke Park’s pitch manager Stuart Wilson would keep the playing surface up to usual standards.

“Stuart does a fantastic job, I was only talking to him before the throw-in the last day [against Longford] and I was remarking how well he gets the pitch. They are an outstanding grounds team in Croke Park and no doubt they did their very best but probably the administration doesn’t help them by putting them in that situation in trying to turn that pitch around in six days.” 

Signing contracts

The Galway-Kilkenny replay, meanwhile, is set for Semple Stadium at 3.0pm and will mark the first time the provincial hurling decider will be played outside Croke Park since 1961, when Nowlan Park in Kilkenny hosted Dublin and Wexford. 

The all-seated Michael Bublé concert at Croke Park this Saturday evening, with support from Emeli Sandé, was announced last November. File photograph: Todd Korol/Reuters
The all-seated Michael Bublé concert at Croke Park this Saturday evening, with support from Emeli Sandé, was announced last November. File photograph: Todd Korol/Reuters

Speaking to RTÉ Radio, the GAA president admitted that while neither Galway nor Kilkenny had any issue with going to Thurles, Croke Park would have been his preference. 

“Unfortunately plans are made way in advance in terms of signing contracts for concerts,” said Horan, “but it is certainly something I want to change that the months of July and August will have no non-GAA events taking place in Croke Park. Going forward I’d like to see that change.” 

The decision to fix the Leinster hurling final replay for Thurles has been criticised in some quarters

Horan also confirmed that should Kildare come through their round four qualifier against Fermanagh and make the Super-8 quarter-final stages, they would be entitled to stage their home game at St Conleth’s Park, which has an all-ticket capacity of just 8,200. Kildare, should they progress, would be grouped with Kerry, Galway and the winners of Laois-Monaghan 

“No matter who the opposition are, it is in rule that each team in the Super 8s will get a home game. That was agreed in Congress and we won’t be turning our back on that.” 

The decision to fix the Leinster hurling final replay for Thurles has been criticised in some quarters, given the decision not to allow Waterford play their Munster championship home games at Kilkenny’s Nowlan Park, as it was outside of Munster. Waterford’s own Walsh Park was ruled out as a suitable venue.

While Horan also admitted that certain lessons had been learned from the Kildare-Mayo qualifier saga, that game first fixed for Croke Park before reverting to St Conleth’s Park after Kildare’s stance of “Newbridge or nowhere”, he rejected the suggestion that Croke Park was out of touch with the grassroots of the Association.

“I’m sorry that such a situation did develop that one of our national committees locked horns with one of our county boards. 

“One topic you could throw out is do we go for full attendance at matches or do we cater for everybody who wants to go and change the actual venue? Which do we do? I think no matter which side we pick of that argument we always going to come in for criticism, so I would reject that Croke Park has lost touch with the grassroots.”

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