Soccer and rugby could be on the way back to Croke Park if Sean Kelly is to be believed 6 years ago

Soccer and rugby could be on the way back to Croke Park if Sean Kelly is to be believed

Some GAA fans would not agree with Kerryman

It's hard to imagine but this month will mark 10 years since the infamous and historic GAA Congress that saw the ban lifted on so called 'foreign games' being played at Croke Park.

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After a solid year of canvassing up and down the country, Sean Kelly, the GAA president at the time,s aw his dreams realised.

After a vote of 227 to 97, the motion to abolish Rule 42 was passed and Kelly's place in GAA history was assured.

The change allowed Brian O'Driscoll and Robbie Keane among dozens others to walk out in Drumcondra at the home of the GAA, something that seemed unthinkable to many supporters just years before.

It's been five years since there was last football or rugby played at Croke Park, as the Aviva Stadium currently is now the home of the FAI and the IRFU.

However with the Aviva's capacity of just over 50,000, Kelly feels that both organisations could reap the financial rewards of making the occasional return to Croke Park.

'Croke Park is opened up permanently now. Five years ago my own club Kilcummin put forward a motion to that effect. It went through without any objection, so much so, most people don’t even know it is open permanently now. They [the IRFU and FAI] know they’d make a lot more money by having 82,000 at a match instead of 50,000.'

In his long ranging piece with the Irish Examiner Kelly feels that instead of the expected wave of negativity that allowing football and rugby into Croke Park was meant to signal, instead it actually had a positive impact on the association,

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'One of the legacies is that the support for sport has grown in the country. There’s a greater appreciation of one another, a greater crossover among the sports. Would the Queen have come to Croke Park, if Croke Park hadn’t been opened?'

Kelly is now of course an MEP and admits that his time as president was probably the most tumultuous the GAA had seen in decades. However the Kerryman has no regrets. He also feels the decision to open Croke Park has had a knock on effect for one of the county's most opposed to Kelly's initial plan for Croke Park.

'There’s no way it would have been politically acceptable to give €30m to Páirc Uí Chaoimh if Croke Park hadn’t been opened.'

Looking back on it, I was one of the few presidents, probably the only one, who had a tough time of it as president. If you look at the presidents since – Liam O’Neill, Christy Cooney, Nickey Brennan – they all got on alright with their management committee, there was no major conflicts of any sort. But this was seen as more or less changing the heartbeat of the Association.'

The Kerryman may have just opened up a very interesting debate about the future use of Croke Park after a weekend when the stadium was only a quarter full for the Allianz league semi finals.