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Cricket Ireland opts for new national stadium

Cricket Ireland is set to develop a new national stadium to replace Malahide Cricket Ground as its main home, as it prepares to play in its first Test match.

The Cricket Ireland board has endorsed a €9m (£7.98m/$11.17m) investment that would go towards developing a new permanent stadium at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Dublin.

Warren Deutrom, chief executive of Cricket Ireland, said: “Cricket in Ireland is entering an exciting new phase, as we begin to understand more and more the implications and obligations of becoming an ICC full member.

“We anticipate that the new Future Tours Programme (FTP) will be finalised by the ICC (International Cricket Council) in April this year. It is likely to involve the senior men alone playing about 60 home matches over the next five seasons. That number doesn’t include women’s or youth international matches, men’s Inter-Provincial and women’s Super 3’s matches, major club finals or any future fixtures/competitions we might develop or host.

“What has become abundantly clear to the board is that this dramatic increase in our home schedule means that we will need to share the load beyond our four existing international-standard grounds around Ireland (Malahide, Clontarf, Stormont and Bready).”

Cricket Ireland recently appointed an external expert to evaluate the existing option of redeveloping Malahide Cricket Ground or pursuing a new national stadium at Abbotstown. While recognising the short-term drawbacks of relocating to a site without the same quality of public transport links as at Malahide, the expert’s report recommended relocating the primary national stadium to the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus.

Among the main factors cited for the move is Malahide’s location within the sensitive heritage environment of Malahide Castle Demesne in Dublin and its close proximity to residential housing. Cricket Ireland said this would provide challenges around planning and development as well as expansion in future years.

Cricket Ireland also said the National Sports Campus plan benefits from its location on a green field site with space to plan and develop with fewer planning and zoning restrictions. It also pointed to the presence of world-class sports, fitness and training facilities, that would become readily available for cricket players to utilise.

The site would also result in the co-location of other Cricket Ireland infrastructure such as its administrative headquarters and under-construction outdoor training facility, resulting in operating efficiencies and cost savings.

Deutrom continued: “It has been no secret that our initial thinking was based around a re-development and expansion of Malahide Cricket Club. However, the report informed the board’s deliberations around a number of important issues around venue access and future-proofing.

“When we selected Malahide as the location for our main stadium in Dublin a decade ago, Irish cricket was in a very different position with a much smaller fixture list. By achieving Test status and joining the FTP, we’ve had to ask ourselves the tough question of whether that decision is still fit-for-purpose.

“Fundamentally, if we are to request substantial sums from government, we need to be sure we can deliver on our programme of cricket matches at permanently-constructed venues which are commensurate with our new status.”

Cricket Ireland will now engage with the government and Sport Ireland, adding that while it is giving in principle support to these steps, any future decisions would be contingent upon resolving financial, legal and technical issues.

Ireland and Afghanistan in June became cricket’s 11th and 12th Test-playing nations as they were approved as full members of the ICC. Ireland will play its first Test match against Pakistan at Malahide from May 11-15.

Image: Dan Heap