GAA rule out providing home for Connacht in Champions Cup

Sportsground will not have the capacity to meet demand for marquee games next season

The GAA has poured cold water on the notion that some of Connacht's marquee Champions Cup games next season might be played at Pearse Stadium in Salthill or MacHale Park in Castlebar.

Connacht Rugby chief executive Willie Ruane said this week that they would explore all options, including the use of GAA venues, as they prepare to play in Europe's premier competition after the best campaign in the province's history.

The limited 7,800 capacity of the Sportsground – sold out for the fourth successive game when Glasgow Warriors arrive tomorrow – means that some fans will probably not be able to get tickets to games again next season.

But, according to the Connacht GAA's secretary John Prenty, there is nothing the GAA can do to help by opening its doors to the successful rugby team.

Advantage

"The association have agreed that we would apply for GAA grounds to be used for the Rugby World Cup, if it is to come here," said Prenty.

“So that’s the policy now and if it happens we’d be fighting tooth and nail to get as many games as possible, because financially it would be an advantage to the region.

“Our hands are tied with regard to Connacht Rugby because it is only for the World Cup that the rule has been passed. It is not an issue really.”

Pearse Stadium in Galway has a capacity of more than 26,000, while MacHale Park in Castlebar can hold 38,000, and both venues and the likely carnival atmospheres generated, would make the arrival of teams like Toulon, Racing 92 or Northampton Saints an occasion to remember in the west.

But Prenty said the GAA’s rules were crystal clear on the use of their facilities for events other than Gaelic games.

Only Croke Park, once permitted by Central Council, can host games that are not affiliated with the organisation, while it has been recently written into the rules that the association’s other stadia can be used only for either the 2023 or 2027 Rugby World Cups.

“It hasn’t come up at this stage and I don’t think it will come up. It was hard enough to get it through when they applied for the World Cup,” said Prenty.

“I don’t think you’ll see the day where it’s a regular thing. It’ll be once-off situations like the world cups because it will benefit the country nationally.

“But if we bid for the World Cup and we get it, I’m sure there will be another move after that again, but in the interim I don’t think anything like that will happen.”

Wexford have named two newcomers in their side for Saturday evening’s Leinster senior hurling championship quarter-final game with Dublin in Croke Park.

Under-21 players Jack O'Connor and David Dunne have been included at left half back and left full forward respectively and will be making their senior championship debuts.

Lee Chin has not been included in the team but a vacancy has been left on the substitutes’ bench in the hope that he will have recovered from a knee ligament injury received in a challenge game against Cork last week.