Their cautious statements welcoming the GAA’s historic decision to open Croke Park last Saturday were obvious attempts at informing the owners of the greatest stadium the island has ever seen that they would only ever become tenants on their own terms.
“As we coordinate and plan our games schedule for 2007, during the course of the next 18 months, we will investigate all venue options available to us,” the FAI said. “When we require to commit to specific venues for these matches, we will have evaluated all aspects of the venue decision, including footballing, logistical and commercial issues.”
The IRFU’s language was equally circumspect, yet it too reeked of an advance intention to try to bargain down the GAA’s rental price by establishing that rugby had alternative avenues it could go down.
“The Irish Rugby Football Union has always stated that during the proposed redevelopment of Lansdowne Road it would investigate its options of temporary accommodation, both inside and outside the country, taking account of the logistical and commercial perspectives,” it said.
A cynic might point out at this juncture that the rugby blazers should really play all their internationals outside of Ireland anyway, given that they play the offensive dirge “Ireland’s Call” at Lansdowne Road in lieu of our actual national anthem. That aside, nothing would be more fun than the hours of endless hilarity we’d have if both the IRFU and the FAI decided the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was a cheaper and more financially viable venue than the monument to self-sufficiency and cute husbandry up on Jones’ Road.
Would they then be accused of being bigoted, prejudiced and old-fashioned if they sent their fans to Wales for home games because the rent was lower and the commercial inducements superior? After all, these were just some of the epithets thrown around about the GAA with regard to Rule 42 the last couple of years. No, we could confidently predict the FAI and the IRFU wouldn’t come in for half as much abuse because they’d argue that the decision to go abroad was a purely business matter. Better yet if they could claim it was motivated by the excessive fees greedy Croke Park wished to charge.
That they’d get a pass for this from much of the media goes without saying. After all, these associations have already received passes for failing to build any stadium of their own (FAI) or letting the one they have fall into disrepair and become an international laughingstock (IRFU). Meanwhile, for having its own house in order, for ambitiously investing tens of millions in bricks and mortar, the amateur GAA somehow became the villains of the piece. It would be funny if it didn’t reveal something terribly begrudging in our nature. The people who drag themselves up are relentlessly criticized. Those waiting for a handout are blameless.
“We are made to feel bad for not giving the stadium to other people,” said Ulster Council chairman Micheal Greenan. “They’re not made to feel bad for not having a stadium.”
Greenan had it about right. As did the president, Sean Kelly, when he asserted the GAA had put the country first. Yes they have, and hopefully the country will see through the IRFU or the FAI if either of them choose not to avail of the opportunity to keep their marquee games in Dublin.
Of course, now that principle of opening the doors to its finest stadium has been established, so many new campaigns can be started to put pressure on the GAA to share its largesse in other ways. Why limit this to Croke Park? After all, the 2,000 GAA clubs in Ireland own property valued at