Thomond rises from the rubble
By JOHN HOGAN Limerick Leader
THOMOND Park is set to rise from the rubble once again as builders prepare the ground for its first Heineken Cup game since Munster's only ever defeat in the competition to Leicester Tigers last January.
While the naming rights to the famous ground have been a source of controversy over the last number of months, it is safe to say the ground will still be named Thomond Park for the visit of ASM Clermont Auvergne on Sunday, November 18
Pat Whelan, chairman of the Thomond Park Redevelopment Committee said the new stadium is starting to take shape and supporters who come to the first game will be able to get a glimpse of what to expect when it is completed.
"It's starting to get exciting, the terraces are fully completed and a lot of one stand is more or less completed. For the first match against Clermont Auvergne, there will be 200 seats occupied in the stand and all the other fans will be in the terrace or in the temporary stands at each corner."
For the first Heineken Cup game of the 2007/2008 season, Thomond Park will have a capacity of around 12,000. The 200 seats
in the new stand will be taken by ERC officials, members of the Munster Branch and players and coaching staff from the two teams.
The stadium is due to be completed by August 2008 at which point it will have a capacity of 26,000.The new ground will feature two new stands adjacent to the existing main pitch, offering a seating capacity of 15,000 and terrace capacity of just over 11,000. The total cost of the redevelopment is estimated to be â‚¬40m.
Mr Whelan pointed out that during the course of the development, construction workers have been very careful to stay outside the pitch bounds. He maintains the hallowed turf on which so many famous victories have taken place, has remained virtually untouched.
Ken Lyons, former president of the Munster Branch and current member of the Thomond Park Development Committee, says the opening game of the new season will be a showcase for the progress that has been made so far. "It's looking brilliant and all the signs are that the health and safety people
will give us the go ahead today," said Mr Lyons this Thursday.
"Hegarty's have done a fantastic job and have complied with every request we have made."
The former president is hopeful that Munster can get off to a winning start in their new but familiar surroundings.
"The old stadium finished up with our first defeat in the Heineken Cup but hopefully we will set out our marker for the season in the new ground with a victory."
02 November 2007
images from inside the ground. Courtesy Munster Rugby