Ireland's GAA to open up Croke Park to rugby, soccer in 2007

Updated: January 17, 2006, 9:33 AM ET

DUBLIN, Jan 17 - Ireland's Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA), which oversees traditional games like hurling and Gaelic football, said on Tuesday its national stadium would be opened up to rugby and soccer international matches in 2007.

Two rugby internationals in February 2007 and at least three soccer matches in March, October and November of that year could go ahead in Croke Park, in the centre of Dublin, the GAA said in a statement.

The games would normally take place at Lansdowne Road, headquarters of Irish rugby and home to the national soccer team. But the ground is due to close by the end of 2006 for refurbishment.

The move is significant because the GAA had repeatedly rejected moves to scrap, or even discuss, Rule 42 which stipulates that only sports governed by the GAA can be played in the stadium.

In a historic move in April, the GAA said it had agreed for the first time in its 120-year history to allow "foreign sports" to be played at Croke Park in Dublin.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the GAA confirmed an agreement had been signed with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

GAA president Sean Kelly said the decision was necessary to ensure Irish sport and sports fans did not have to travel abroad, and that the Irish economy would benefit from having access to home games while Lansdowne Road is being developed.

Philip Browne, chief executive of the IRFU, said the move was a significant milestone in Irish sporting history.

"It will be a major celebration for Irish sport and indeed for the general public in Ireland," he said.

The GAA said the agreement applied only to 2007 and that no decision had been made for arrangements after that date.

"Any future application will be reviewed in the context of the Lansdowne Road development project in 2007," it said.

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index