FEARS have been expressed that Limerick could ‘lose its rugby identity’ if Munster Rugby’s training base is established in Cork.
A survey of Limerick residents has indicated staunch opposition against the possibility of the Munster Branch establishing the team’s training HQ in Cork. The team currently divide their time between UL and Cork’s Institute of Technology, a situation recently described as a “logistical nightmare” by outgoing team manager Shaun Payne.
It was revealed recently that UL, Limerick Institute of Technology and CIT have all tabled bids to become the main training base for Munster Rugby - with LIT in particular putting forward an “attractive proposal to Munster and the IRFU for hosting a single, state-of-the art training facility for their teams”.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan TD has said that the decision is “obviously one for the Munster branch, but I would like to see it based in Limerick”.
“The combination of Thomond Park and the facilities in the University Arena would seem to me to justify maintaining it in Limerick. But of course I appreciate the difficulties of some players who have to travel long distances,” he said.
Informal conversations between senior team members and local politicians are known to have taken place in recent weeks with regard to increasing support for a Limerick bid, but it is thought likely that an injection of funds from some private source may be necessary and could sway the decision.
Leinster Rugby’s training base in Dublin - seen as second to none in Ireland and indeed Europe - benefited from a private source of funding and there are fears that Limerick could lose out to Cork if some similar funding strand was not found.
Mayor Cllr Gerry McLoughlin has previously said that Limerick would be the “natural fit” for a single base for the province.
Local people surveyed by the Limerick Leader, such as Joe McMahon of Carey’s Road, said that “you wouldn’t get the same interest down there (Cork)”.
“We would be very frustrated if they moved to Cork,” he said.
Sarah Dillon from Cratloe echoed similar views, saying Limerick was “supposed to be the home of Munster Rugby”.
“Limerick is where they are based so it makes more sense for the team to train closer to where they are based.
“I don’t think people in Limerick would be supportive of the decision for Munster to train in CIT instead of UL and they might not support the team as much,” she said.
Munster Rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald has previously indicated that an independent consultant will be appointed to examine the proposals.
“It will probably be the end of August before we can further discuss the matter and if we were to take a decision one way or another it would be at least 18 months to two years before there would be any move,” he said recently.
“It would have to go for ratification to the Branch and would involve building facilities at one of the three places and considerable planning would be involved,” he added.