By Shaun Casey
THE BOX-IT Athletic Grounds in Armagh would most likely be the chosen venue should Ulster Rugby receive permission to host a pre-season fixture on GAA grounds, Gaelic Life understands.
Kingspan Stadium is closed for the foreseeable future due to the development of a new 3G all-weather pitch being laid, so Ulster Rugby are seeking an alternative venue for the early October pre-season friendly.
The Armagh club championships get underway this weekend and will run right through to October, with games expected to be played every weekend in the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds.
The JFC semi-finals have been penned in for the first weekend of October, while the last four meetings of the SFC and IFC are set to be played over the weekend of 6-8 of October, with the JFC final taking place the following week.
Then at the end of the month, both the SFC and IFC finals have been scheduled for the weekend of 20-22 of October, so some forward planning will be required from the Armagh County Board, Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby to find a suitable date.
It would be a historic occasion for the Armagh venue, widely regarded as one of the best GAA stadiums in the province if not nationwide, although it wouldn’t be the first time that rugby has been played within the boundaries of a GAA ground.
Back in 2005, the GAA altered Rule 42 which prohibited non-association games to be played at GAA venues, to allow the Irish Rugby team to play their home games at Croke Park while the Aviva Stadium was under reconstruction.
The Republic of Ireland national soccer team also used Croke Park to host their home games at the same time when they had no alternative home venue.
Ulster Rugby previously hosted a Gaelic football match in 2014 when Casement Park was unavailable, for the ‘Game for Anto’
That event helped raise funds and awareness of Motor Neurone Disease, the disease suffered by former Antrim player Anto Finnegan.
The Irish News All-Star team took on Jim Gavin’s Dublin and created history as it was the first GAA game to ever be played at the home of Ulster Rugby.