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Rugby World Cup games for Mayo?


MAKING THEIR POINTS An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, right, is pictured in conversation with former Mayo manager James Horan in the Sky Sports studio at MacHale Park, Castlebar after last Saturday’s Connacht SFC semi-final. Pic: Sportsfile

Daniel Carey


MAYO GAA Board delegates have given their backing in principle to staging Rugby World Cup matches at MacHale Park in 2023 – but chairman Mike Connelly insists: “We’re not going to come cheap”.
A number of GAA pitches from around the country have been earmarked as possible venues if Ireland’s bid to stage the competition is successful, secretary Vincent Neary told last Wednesday’s County Board meeting.
The Bonniconlon official read a letter from Croke Park seeking support for the bid, and outlining the details of what is required. The Castlebar stadium would have to be available from September 15 to November 4, 2023 and be ‘clean of all commercial arrangements’ for the duration of the tournament. In addition, Mayo County Board must undertake to deliver ’all the required upgrade and overview works’ needed to satisfy Rugby World Cup requirements.
Neary noted that the time of year coincides with the concluding stages of the Mayo club championships. But he added that MacHale Park is unlikely to host a knockout game in the Rugby World Cup, so the pitch wouldn’t be unavailable for Gaelic games for the entire tournament. All required upgrades would, he stressed, be ‘paid for by Croke Park’. The successful bidder is to be announced in May 2017.
Asked what money Mayo GAA would get out of it, chairman Mike Connelly replied with a smile: “We didn’t get to that detail yet, but we’d be hoping that it’ll be a seven-figure sum!”
John Farragher (Garrymore) said it would be ‘a missed opportunity’ not to make MacHale Park available. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he added. “You’re not going to get something like that in the west of Ireland again.”
Schools delegate John Holian was sceptical, saying: “You’d probably be talking about a game between Russia and Namibia or someone like that, and there might be 45 people, a few eejits like ourselves .... I’d hold fire.”
Ger McHugh (Hollymount/Carramore) joked that a small attendance was ‘all the more reason’ to favour having a match in Castlebar, as there would be ‘no crowd control issues!’
Echoing Farragher’s comments, Brendan Mooney (Kiltimagh) said: “If we’re going to businesses in Castlebar looking for sponsorship and we’re turning down an opportunity to bring thousands of people into the town, it’ll be very difficult … We won’t get the chance again to hold a World Cup of any code in Castlebar, or Mayo.”
Central Council delegate Seán Mac Éil said it would be useful to find out ‘discreetly’ what hosting the game ‘might be worth to us’. He warned that the ‘promotional benefits’ of the bid to the Irish Rugby Football Union would be ‘very significant’.
“I know you just can’t go against the tide, and if people in Croke Park are in favour of this, then so be it,” the Knockmore man added. “But … when rugby and then soccer were played in Croke Park, the [financial] benefits [to the GAA] were very significant ... If it put a dent in that huge debt that we have, well then I’m certainly ... for it. [But] I wouldn’t do it lightly.”
Chairman Mike Connelly commented: “We are fighting within Connacht ourselves to maintain our status; we have invested an awful lot of money here … We’re not going to come cheap either … The main reason – and the only reason as far as I’m concerned – is the whole financial piece. So we’re just going to have to wait and see.”
Ballina delegate Pádraig Prendergast told the meeting that turning down ‘this opportunity’ would ‘have a negative effect’. Any upgrades would ‘benefit our stadium’, and he warned: “If we start going against it, we’ll shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The motion was formally proposed and seconded.


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