Time for Tralee to get its slice of the cake

June 20th, 2013
by Kerry O'Shea

Austin Stack Park in Tralee last staged a Munster Senior Football Championship game ten years ago, on June 15 2003, when Kerry hosted Tipperary. The Kingdom won on a 0-25 to   1-10 scoreline.

Since then, for some reason, all of the Munster Senior Football Championship home games involving Kerry have been played in Killarney.

Austin Stack Park has always been and should remain an important part in Kerry GAA folklore. Austin Stack Park is Kerry's nominated County Ground yet the Munster Council chooses to ignore this when fixing Munster Senior Championship games involving Kerry.

Whilst there is no disputing the fact that Fitzgerald Stadium is a fantastic venue it sometimes lacks the atmosphere and occasion that Tralee can provide on these days and these last two games prove this point.

Tralee is a tighter ground and the crowd are closer to the action. The capacity of the ground is somewhere between 12,500 and 13,000 and it would be an ideal venue for Munster Opening Round and Semi-Final Senior games.

 MacCumhail Park in Ballybofey, a ground similar in size to Austin Stack Park, recently hosted the glamorous Ulster SFC opening round tie involving Donegal and Tyrone.

Some 17,000 people fitted into that compact ground comfortably despite fears that it would not be able accommodate the numbers.

O'Byrne Park in Aughrim, in Wicklow, will, next weekend, play host to the Wicklow-Meath Leinster SFC tie having already hosted the Wicklow-Longford Leinster Championship tie earlier this month. The capacity at the County Wicklow venue is around 10,000, some three thousand less than Austin Stack Park.

Apart from NFL games, the last 'major' game involving Kerry to take place in Tralee was the 2009 All-Ireland SFC qualifier game between Kerry and Sligo which was played on a Saturday evening, and attracted a fine sized crowd of 9,300 to the venue, who thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.

Austin Stack Park has been and still is still well capable of hosting big Munster Senior Football Championship fixtures.

After all, the Munster Council seem to have no problem in awarding Tralee fixtures for Munster Minor, Junior and Under 21 games involving Kerry, yet they pass Tralee over when awarding the senior fixtures.

Has the time now come for the Munster Council to rethink that decision? One would certainly think so given that the combined attendance at the two games in Killarney this year, was a mere 12,400.

 It's time also to give thought to the legions of supporters from North and West Kerry and Tralee who are travelling all the time to follow their team. It would be nice if the journey could be halved as Tralee is an ideal central location and money is scarce in these recessionary times.

The reasons given for the relocation to Killarney was the imminent relocation of Austin Stack Park to Ballybeggan Park which has not taken place and will not do so for the foreseeable future, a lack of ample car parking facilities around Austin Stack Park and traffic congestion around Tralee Town Centre on big match days.

Tralee town has been hard hit by the current recession. It would be splendid to see people parking their cars in the Brandon, or Denny Street or any of the numerous car parks around the town on big Munster SFC match days. The interaction between visitors to town and locals is always very positive and all the above mentioned streets as well as council car parks and the multi story car parks are all well within easy walking distance of Austin Stack Park.

The advent of the new Tralee Bypass, which is due to open next month, will alleviate any fears of traffic congestion in and around Tralee Town Centre on big match days.

A few months ago, well-known Tralee businessman Eddie Barrett launched a well-publicised campaign using social media with the aim of restoring Horse Racing to Ballybeggan Park.

That campaign has significantly increased in numbers.  The time has now come for a similar campaign to be launched to get one of Kerry's home Munster SFC games returned to Austin Stack Park.

A couple of years ago when Tralee lost out on the hosting of the County GAA Museum, Tralee's Town Councillors were quick to express their anger at this decision, and rightly so.

Tralee Town Council, which has one year left before they are consigned to history, with the incoming Mayor, should lead this campaign to have one of Kerry's home Munster Senior Football Championship games played in Tralee, along with Tralee Town Board and Tralee Chamber Alliance.

To have at least one Munster Senior Championship game hosted in Tralee would be a major economic boost to the many bars, cafes and restaurants in town.
After all, Tralee is entitled to its fair slice of the cake on big Munster SFC days. Isn't it?

Printed in the Tralee Outlook.

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