The Irish Taoiseach, Berti Ahern, has formally approached the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to use Croke Park for EURO2008. This approach has been made despite saying that a contract to build Stadium Ireland would be in place before the middle of next month. The Irish government have asked the owners of Croke Park, the GAA, for permission to use the 80,000 seater stadium on a special "once-off" basis to fill part of their end of the joint EURO2008 bid. Sports minister John O'Donoghue confirmed the letter had been written in an attempt to secure EURO2008 for Scottish and Ireland. Speaking in the Irish parliament (the Dial) O'Donoghue said the government wished to reassure the GAA that no precedent would be set if they agreed to Croke Park being used.
Which way to turn?
This could prove a tricky dilemma for the Irish. They had always thought of using Lansdowne Road, the home of the Irish Rugby Football Union, as the second ground. However, I recall the IRFU saying that they would only allow Lansdowne Road to be upgraded (as it certainly needs to be) if Stadium Ireland was built. Is Ahern hedging his bets so that he can offer two from three suitable grounds? He does have a big financial carrot to offer the GAA. The GAA were promised funding to complete the last stand of Croke Park. That is being withheld at the moment as the Irish government reviews their financial commitments. If the right words appear in any response from the GAA, I would not be surprised to see that funding being released.