Nick Royle (Times Ireland)
Cricket Ireland has announced plans to develop a new stadium at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin.
Irish cricket's governing body previously supported a €6m redevelopment of the members-owned Malahide Cricket Club, which would have included a new pavilion with television and media facilities, and 1,500 permanent seats.
However, Cricket Ireland now believe they need their own purpose-built stadium to accommodate up to 12 Test, Twenty20 and one-day internationals a year.
“When we selected Malahide as the location for our main stadium in Dublin a decade ago, Irish cricket was in a very different position with a much smaller fixture list,” Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, said.
“By achieving Test status and joining the Future Tours Programme we’ve had to ask ourselves the tough question of whether that decision is still fit for purpose.”
Malahide has staged many of Ireland's biggest matches over the past ten years, including a 9,100 sell-out one-day international against England in 2013, and will host Ireland's inaugural men's Test match against Pakistan in May, and two Twenty20 internationals against India in June.
But the north County Dublin ground is located in the Malahide Castle Demesne and near residential housing, and is therefore subject to strict planning and zoning reguslations. Deutrom believes the government are more likely to provide funding for a “future-proof” stadium on the greenfield site at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus than for a redevelopment of Malahide.
“Fundamentally, if we are to request substantial sums from Government, we need to be sure we can deliver on our programme of cricket matches at permanently-constructed venues which are commensurate with our new status,” he continued.
Cricket Ireland's decision to move to Abbotstown makes sense on financial grounds, with an external management consultancy report suggesting they would struggle to make a significant profit from their 60 home matches over the next five years at Malahide Cricket Club.
Building a new pop-up stadium at Malahide for the ODI against England in 2013 cost €250,000, and Cricket Ireland only made a small profit on the match despite selling 9,100 tickets.
Planning permission for floodlights is likely to be granted for the new stadium at Abbotstown, which would allow Cricket Ireland to host lucrative day-night Twenty20 internationals.
Malahide Cricket Club reportedly had informal discussions with Fingal County Council about erecting temporary floodnights for the two T20Is against India, but were told permission was unlikely to be granted because of expected objections from residents.
There have been tensions between Cricket Ireland and Malahide Cricket Club over recent years, although Deutrom was quick to play down any suggestion that was a factor in the decision.
Some Malahide members have grown frustrated at being unable to play on their own ground in the weeks before major Ireland matches, while others were unhappy with media reports last September that the club was set to host the Test match against Pakistan even though members had not yet voted on the issue.
“Every member of Cricket Ireland's board acknowledges the emotional ties we have developed with Malahide – particularly after some of the big games of recent years – and the decision should not in any way be seen as a reflection on the club,” Deutrom continued.
“Malahide’s members and volunteers have been superb to deal with over many years, but our entry into the FTP will place requirements for availability on the club that will be unrealistic for members, who will understandably want access to their main pitch to play their own fixtures.”