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'If a neighbour's house is bur...
Soccer

'If a neighbour's house is burning down..' | The first soccer game in Croke Park

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

23:24 25 Mar 2020

Former GAA president Sean Kelly to discuss how it came about that the first soccer match was played at Croke Park in 2007.

It is 13 years since Republic of Ireland played Wales at Croker, in a match that was by no means uncontroversial in going ahead.

With the reconstruction of Lansdowne Road into the Aviva Stadium, the soccer team were left without a home and staring at the real prospect of playing home games in the United Kingdom.

Rule 42 in the GAA's guidelines prevent non-Gaelic games being played in their stadia, but Kelly remembers the debate well and fondly.

"I would have to say that it was by far and away the best debate I ever attended - not only in the GAA but politically as well," said Kelly of the discussions to allow the matches to go ahead.

"The debate was fantastic, it was to and fro, it was sincere, it was logical and emotional. But nobody went out-of-hand in insulting anybody.

"The debate itself, because of its maturity and the decision, showed the wonderful, democratic organisation that the GAA really is."

Kelly spoke about the fear he had that his caucus, in favour of letting the soccer team play, would lose the debate and potentially cause a schism in the GAA.

"I was in trepidation that the momentum was going away from us, when Cork and New York went against us.

"You needed a huge amount of support to get a two-thirds majority, and I was hoping that we could have an open vote rather than a secret ballot.

"When that was defeated, people felt like that it was doomed."

It was a particularly poetic simile that may have turned the tide, from one of Kelly's colleagues.

"It was absolutely unpalatable to me that an Irish team, made up of Irish people wearing the green jersey of Ireland, would have to play their home games in Twickenham or in Cardiff.

"It was just something that I said we could not accept and that we had to do everything in our power to prevent.

"It was Sean Quinn from Wexford who said 'If your neighbour's house was on fire, and you had a spare room, would you give it to him?'

"It was a very simple and appropriate analogy that stuck with me."

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