RUGBY is set to be played at the Markets Field for the first time in almost 60 years.
Representatives of the Markets Field and Munster Rugby have agreed terms to facilitate the return of the game to the famed Garryowen venue.
Rugby has not been played at the redeveloped Markets Field since 1958.
In the past the stadium hosted many memorable club and representative games dating back to the mid 1880’s when Young Irelands and the newly formed Garryowen made their home there.
The ground, which gave the term ‘Garryowen’ to the English language and hosted the 1905 Munster vs All Blacks game.
However, competitive rugby has not been played at the venue since 1958.
In a statement issued this Wednesday, both the Markets Field and Munster Rugby said they were ‘absolutely delighted’ to be bridging the nearly 60 year gap. The parties see the ground as providing ‘an ideal city centre venue for matches of importance with moderate attendances.’
Gerry O’Shea, Vice-President of the Munster Branch, said: “We have been working on this for a number of months and this announcement bridges a close on 60-year gap.
Rugby is coming back into its original home and we are delighted to be working with LEDP (Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership) and Sporting Limerick to achieve this and we are looking forward to playing there for years to come.
”We can play all levels of games from seniors right down to junior, schoolboys, youths, whenever the opportunity affords us and the occoasion is suitable and we will be delighted to use the venue.
“The Markets Field is where Limerick rugby started out more than 100 years ago and it is great to be able to reestablish the game in the ground.
”We have been hampered by weather over the past few weeks. In the interests of the pitch we have held off putting machinery onto the ground for the goalposts.
”As soon as we get the goalposts in place and are satisfied that everything is in order we will look a suitable occasion to play the first match there again.”
It had been envisaged that the Limerick Charity Cup final between Young Munster and Old Crescent would originally be played at the venue. However, due to the very wet weather in December those plans had to be changed.
It is hoped that the Sporting Limerick Charity Cup final will be staged on St Stephen’s Day date at the Markets Field venue in years to come.
Gerry Boland, LEDP Director, said: “From our point of view we are extremely grateful to JP McManus for the funds he provided for the original purchase of the Markets Field in 2010 and the venue came into our custodianship at that time.
”It presented a huge challenge for us at that time to progress the stadium redevloped. We succeeded in doing that in a very sound way for sporting Limerick, particularly soccer number one but also rugby.
”The pitch has been designed to accommodate a full size rugby pitch. That was one of the main specifications that we provided at the time. We want rugby and we want soccer and any other games that would slot in nicely.
”We are absolutely delighted with the support from Munster Rugby. We look forward to good games being played there, both at senior level, colleges level. It is a great facility and we thank Munster Rugby very much for their support.”
Ger Malone, Chairman of the Munster Rugby committee added: “The Markets Field is, you must remember, the epicentre of sport in Limerick historically between GAA, rugby and soccer, so it is a facility we really, really want to get into and get the use of.”