On the one hand, it is possible that the less intimate surroundings of Croke Park could militate against Ireland getting up the head of steam that is traditionally generated by Lansdowne Road, yet the sheer novelty of the occasion, allied to the players’ understanding that they will be taking part in an historic first, should make the difference when the green jerseys take the field at Jones’s Road against the French on Sunday week.
Interestingly, the Ireland squad tested that field, and its playing surface, which has been the butt of criticism of several inter-county hurling and football teams, and the subsequent reports were all favorable.
And despite the spirit of sporting ecumenism that has broken out between the GAA and both the rugby and soccer authorities, a belief still remains that the opening of Croke Park’s doors to competing games is tantamount to sacrilege.
The problem here is that Lansdowne Road, which was supposed to have been bulldozed by now, is untouched by the wrecking ball as wrangles over planning permission continue. So, the refuseniks who always wanted the Croke Park shrine to be a stadium for the GAA and the GAA alone are wondering why the Six Nations is coming to their HQ when Lansdowne Road is still open for business.
Speaking to the Irish Independent newspaper, Michael Greenan, the chairman of the Ulster Council of the GAA, said the association hadn’t just been sold a pup; it had been sold a litter over the opening up of the stadium. “The motion as passed by 2005 Congress is not being adhered to. Work has not started at Lansdowne Road, yet we’re opening Croke Park to rugby and soccer. That’s a wrong decision,” Greenan fumed.
Apparently, Greenan and his like have a constituency within the GAA. More and more of the association’s die-hards are beginning to sound like they’re longing for the days before the advent of the national electricity grid when candles were lit to brighten up dark evenings.
In case they haven’t noticed, sport and commerce have moved on. With the GAA set to earn an estimated