Malahide is set to lose its status as Ireland’s premier cricket venue, after the board of Cricket Ireland performed a U-turn and voted instead for the development of a new permanent stadium in Dublin.
The venue, which will be built on a green-field site at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus, has been commissioned in order to meet both the heightened expectations of Ireland’s Test status, as well as their anticipated upsurge in fixtures when the new Future Tours Programme is unveiled by the ICC later this year.
The board, which has also approved its largest annual operational budget of 9 million euro, had initially planned to redevelop Malahide to make it their main national stadium. However, a report instead recommended the campus in Abbotstown, where Cricket Ireland’s new administrative office is under construction and other world-class facilities are already available.
“It has been no secret that our initial thinking was based around a redevelopment and expansion of Malahide Cricket Club,” Cricket Ireland CEO, Warren Deutrom, said.
“However, the report informed the Board’s deliberations around a number of important issues around venue access and future-proofing.
“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. By achieving Test status and joining the FTP [Future Tours Programme], we’ve had to ask ourselves the tough question of whether that decision is still fit-for-purpose.
“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.”
Under the provisions of the new FTP, Ireland anticipate 60 home fixtures for Ireland’s men over the course of the coming five-year period, with additional commitments for women, regional and age-group fixtures. They have already announced an additional six limited-overs matches against Afghanistan in 2018.
“What has become abundantly clear to the Board is that this dramatic increase in our home schedule means that we will need to share the load beyond our four existing international-standard grounds around Ireland (Malahide, Clontarf, Stormont and Bready),” Deutrom added.
Malahide, which will host Ireland’s maiden Test match, against Pakistan in May, has been a full international venue since September 2013, when England were the visitors.
Despite being well placed for transport links, the board decided that its sensitive location – within the grounds of Malahide Castle and in close proximity to residential housing – meant that future expansion of the venue would be too restricted.
Cricket Ireland also attracted criticism last summer when their scheduled ODI against West Indies at Belfast, was washed out without a ball being bowled. A bespoke cricket venue, with international-standard drainage, would guard against such situations in the future.
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.