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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 18 March, 2019

Tipp GAA chief can see reason behind Semple Stadium omisson from Ireland's RWC bid

The Thurles venue did not make the long list at the recent launch.

Semple Stadium missed out on the long list of venues.
Semple Stadium missed out on the long list of venues.
Image: Ken Sutton/INPHO

THERE WAS PLENTY anger last month in Tipperary when Semple Stadium did not make the cut for the longlist of 12 venues for Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.

But one prominent Tipperary GAA official can understand the logic behind the decision.

Tipperary secretary Tim Floyd believes they ‘fell victim to a strategic decision’ to pick two venues in each province while the low population in Thurles and lack of a tourism profile also costs them.

Floyd addressed the issue when writing in his annual report ahead of the 2016 Tipperary GAA Convention next Friday night.

“Different reasons have been put forward for our failure to make the cut but much of this is sheer speculation as I haven’t heard any official reason.

“We have heard about poor access, lack of accommodation, not a tourist area, but at the end of the day this was an IRFU decision in conjunction with the consultants and bidding committee headed up by Dick Spring and its Ambassador Brian O’Driscoll.

Arlene Foster, Brian O'Driscoll, Dick Spring and Martin McGuinness Arlene Foster, Brian O'Driscoll, Dick Spring and Martin McGuinness at the recent Rugby World Cup bid launch Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I am sure they had a long list of pre requisites drawn up before they ever visited our Stadium. I believe they went away after two visits very satisfied that our facilities and infrastructure were top notch so it seems when it came to ticking other boxes our location fell short.

“I believe we fell victim to a strategic decision which geographically selected venues based on capacity, location and tourism. Regarding location I believe they selected eight GAA venues which divided into two in each Province. Cork’s city base and Kerry’s tourism scored a lot heavier than Thurles where we have just an 8,000 population capacity and a low profile tourism tradition .

“Semple Stadium ranks second only to Croke Park with over 50,000 just marginally ahead of the Gaelic Grounds Limerick which incidentally did not win their favour due I suppose to their close proximity to Thomond Park.

A view as the pitch is marked before the game Thomond Park Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Having watched previous Rugby World Cups on TV I saw a lot of mismatches in half full stadiums which I suppose does not give a good impression. Therefore I believe the bidding committee were well catered for capacity wise with Croke Park, The Aviva and Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

“These three are well capable of hosting potential big audience games featuring the All Blacks, England and not forgetting the home side Ireland plus the closing stage playoff games and the final which looks destined for Croke Park (if it happens).

“Semple Stadium’s 50,000 capacity plus our non-traditional tourist area were I believe the biggest factors for our non-inclusion. Nowlan Park ticked the box due to its city base in the Leinster province and its 25,000 approx capacity possibly put it ahead of Semple Stadium as its closest rival in the South East Region.

A view of Nowlan Park Nowlan Park Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“Maybe it’s better to get the bad news now as you can imagine the excitement now if Semple Stadium was included and in November 2017 the disappointment if the bid fails. Worse still if the bid was successful and Semple lost out in the possible cut from twelve to eight venues required.

“If we were lucky enough to survive as a named venue in 2023 and we end up with two games between the less renowned countries which might attract only a handful of spectators then we would say “What was all the fuss about seven years ago” Worse still we could have lost out on big GAA games as a result.

“Maybe I am just trying to soften the blow to alleviate the disappointment of not being selected.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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