Galway has to get on the Rugby World Cup shortlist

This month next year a decision will be made on who will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The bookies were saying yesterday that Ireland is the 2/5 favourite to be awarded the honour, but there is many a slip twixt world cup and the lip and there cannot be any element of complacency regarding a potential bid.

It was good news for the west this week that Pearse Stadium and McHale Park are among 12 stadia around the country that may be used in a successful bid. Pearse Stadium last hosted a game of international stature in 2007 when it was the home to the Compromise Rules game on a weekend that became more famous for the Brendan Fevola incident than for anything that took place on the pitch.

McHale Park has hosted many night-time televised league games over the last while and even the Mayo County Final was played under lights there a few weeks back.

So both stadia are flexible and can be amended to suit the requirements of what games may come their way.

The 12 chosen stadia will be whittled down to eight once a decision has been taken on the awarding of the World Cup and that will happen before Christmas next year. There seems little doubt that if Ireland is chosen, at least one stadium in the west will hold games.

Much has been made of the capacity of each of the stadia to accommodate tens of thousands of fans who will flock to the various regions to follow their teams. Some fine GAA stadia like Semple Stadium have been left out because of the distance from a fine supply of accommodation. The organisers of this World Cup do not want to be ferrying fans out to places where they cannot be fed and watered. It is ideal if these are places that have ready-made capacity for large crowds.

So in many regards, Galway has a strong advantage going into this process. And Mayo too has a good case.

There is no doubt that historical and cultural matters will influence the allocation of each team to whatever region they are sent, and in this regard, there is already speculation that Argentina may be based in the west, given the historical Mayo connections with the foundation of their country.

Hosting the Rugby World Cup will be the biggest sporting task ever afforded the governments of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It will require great co-operation and planning and will be hopefully devoid of many of the great security concerns that seem to be to the forefront of whatever international sporting event is held worldwide lately.

Galway has just emerged from a period of campaigning to win the Capital of Culture title, but soon that will be upon us. And soon it might be behind us. Galway and the west has to campaign strongly for its inclusion in this great event. It is a chance to showcase a game in our region — a region that has brought to much to the game in the last year.

It will also create employment and give the country a fillip it might need to see us recover fully from the events of the last 10 years. We have to get on the shortlist. The canvassing should start now.

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