New Dublin stadium is no dump

By Mark Simpson
BBC Ireland Correspondent

Image caption,
Man Utd's Wayne Rooney in action during the pre-season friendly against a League of Ireland select XI at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin

It is unlikely that an English visitor to Dublin will ever again refer to the city's main sports stadium as a 'dump'.

With 50,000 seats, 69 bars and three restaurants, the new Lansdowne Road stadium is among the most luxurious in the world.

Renamed the Aviva stadium, the new home of Irish rugby and football could hardly be more green. And that is not just in terms of the grass and the emerald-coloured seats.

More than 1,500 tonnes of steelwork from the old stadium was recycled and used on the new one. Water captured on the roof is used to irrigate the pitch.

The stadium is hi-tech and high spec. Good enough for the world's most famous football team, Manchester United, to kick off the new era with the first major match on the new carpet-like green pitch.

An eight-goal feast in a 7-1 win by United over a League of Ireland select XI was an entertaining start.

Image caption,
Aviva Stadium has a capacity of 50,000

The time is probably right for ex-England rugby captain Paul Ackford to return to Lansdowne Road and reconsider his assessment of the place as a "dump".

This is what he said seven years ago: "Please, no guff about it being a romantic venue.

"All those Aussies and Kiwis who bang on lovingly about its accessibility, its passion, its earthiness know nothing. Lansdowne Road has about as much romance to it as a quick grope behind the bike sheds."

The new stadium may be easier to fall in love with. It should be, at a cost of £350m.

However, like all sports stadia, it is not perfect.

The shape is a little like a giant bed-pan. It may be difficult for rugby players to see the posts against the small glassy north stand.

The capacity is 30,000 less than the magnificent Gaelic games stadium, Croke Park, which the Irish rugby and football teams were forced to borrow while their new home was being built.

It means that tickets will be harder to buy for the big events, like England's visit in the rugby Six Nations next year and football's 2011 Europa Cup final.

With Ireland crippled by recession there may be less public demand for the lesser games.

One thing that is not a problem is the pitch. The Man Utd stars raved about it. Wayne Rooney Michael Owen and co went back to England happy.

The days of the English damning the Dublin stadium have been dumped.