DUBLIN CITY University have announced audacious plans to create an indoor version of the Croke Park pitch at their north Dublin sports facility, St Clare's. By replicating the parameters of the GAA's main field, and with a grass surface and transparent roof, the university will be in demand from all intercounty teams seeking to prepare for high summer championship visits to the Jones' Road.
That this venture is fronted by former GAA President Peter Quinn adds serious credence to the venture. Quinn, a brother of Ireland's wealthiest businessman, Seán, and a respected financial advisor in his own right, played an instrumental role in the crucial stages of the redevelopment of Croke Park during his term of office between 1991 and 1994.
Quinn revealed the plans in a speech at the announcement of Bank of Ireland's five-year sponsorship deal with the DCU GAA academy in Dublin yesterday.
The cost for DCU's new state of the art indoor facilities is conservatively estimated at €15 million. A completion date of 2013 and capacity of 10,000 were also tentatively mentioned by Quinn.
"Its primary use will be for testing and training and that sort of thing but matches will be played on it. We would hope to host inter-county challenge matches."
The initial stages of planning have been submitted to Fingal County Council with a hope to begin construction over the next 24 months.
"We would like to think it will be finished in five years but a lot will depend on the planners and our ability to raise the funds," Quinn continued. "We will obviously be looking for some support from the Government. I'm glad we're not going for it this year.
"Indications are fairly positive in relation to planning but until you actually have the green form in your hand and it is signed you can't be sure. In any sort of construction project like this and particularly one in north Dublin at the moment with the Luas (A DCU stop is planed for the new Metro North route, with an unconfirmed completion date also of 2013) and issues like that involved we have to be a little careful about being too specific about when the project is going to start, but the reality is that we are in a position to start raising the funding as soon as we are sure the project is ready to start.
"The funding will be significant. It will be double digit millions but, you know, we will get a project that will definitely be value for money."
DCU Professor for Health and Human performance Niall Moyna was keen to note the technological and self-sufficient advantages of such an indoor arena.
"Hopefully we'll have a backdrop where we can mimic different grounds in the country," said Moyna. "Let's say, if you're taking a free you can actually see Hill 16 and the crowd noise, we can mimic wind patterns, rain. These are some of the visions that we have for this centre. So if an inter-county team wanted to come up and train for the weekend at the end of it they'd get a full review of what each and every player had done.
"In the current economic climate maybe we're going to have to sit back and say well, hold on, we just can't do everything we wanted to do but you have to have that vision, a bold vision to do something that nobody else has done before and bring it to a whole new level."
The Dublin footballers will be working with Moyna on the DCU campus for the 2009 season but Quinn dismissed any potential conflict with the Dublin County Board plans to build their own centre of excellence on the 25-acre site in Rathcoole, which recently received a planning permission green light but must still go through An Bord Pleanála's objection process.
"It will effectively be an indoor stadium with the exception that it has a (transparent) roof and therefore it has a limit to the height the ball can go," Quinn explained. "Clearly, that might not be appropriate for championship football but we would have said 10 years ago that playing under floodlights wasn't appropriate for championship football and now half the county club championships in the country are played under floodlights on Saturday night. The provincial stages of the All-Ireland club championships are played under lights as we saw last Sunday for example.
"So, what was impossible 10 years ago and might be impossible today may not be impossible 10 years from now. We just have to see how the game develops and how the facility will develop.
"Certainly, we will have a facility that will be playable 365 days a year with an extra day in the leap year, and 24 hours a day.
"It will be made available to the local community as well. There are a number of clubs in the area around it but we are thinking more in terms of community, but clubs can use it too."