End of GAA ban on ‘barracks games’
End of GAA ban on ‘barracks games’

Irish rugby and soccer international matches will be played for the first time at the home of the Gaelic Athletics Association, it has been confirmed.

The GAA, the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Football Association of Ireland announced the agreement to share the Croke Park stadium in Dublin next year.

The traditional home of Irish soccer and rugby, Lansdowne Road, will be closed in 2007 for redevelopment and the English and French rugby teams will be among the first international sides to take to the field in front of 80,000 fans as part of next year’s Six Nations Championship.

At least three soccer matches are also scheduled to be held at the north Dublin venue that year as part of the bid of the national soccer team to qualify for the 2008 European Championships.

The agreement marks the end of years of bitter debate about the future of Ireland’s largest stadium and the fourth biggest in Europe. Four years ago, the association abolished the even more controversial ban on members of the British Crown forces playing the sport.

The GAA’s ruling body has set aside the organisation’s controversial Rule 42, which banned the use of its headquarters for sports once derided as “barracks games”.

Yesterday afternoon’s joint statement said discussions on the possible use of Croke Park have been ongoing over the last few weeks and would continue into the future in a bid to agree operational matters.

“Two rugby internationals in February and at least three soccer internationals in March, October and November are scheduled to take place in 2007,” it said.

“The situation post-2007 has not been discussed or considered and any future application will be reviewed in the context of the Lansdowne Road development project in 2007.”

GAA president Sean Kelly said he was pleased that agreement had been reached. He said the development was practical and necessary to ensure Irish sport and its fans did not have to travel abroad.

Chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, John Delaney described the agreement as a historic day for soccer and sport in Ireland. Irish Rugby Football Union chief executive Philip Browne said the plan represented a significant milestone in Irish sporting history.

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