View of east stand after redevelopment
|Owner||Irish Rugby Football Union|
|Capacity||26,500 (15,100 seated)|
|Public transit access||Limerick railway station
Ballynanty Road bus stop
UL Bohemian RFC
Thomond Park is a stadium located in Limerick in the Irish province of Munster. The stadium is owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union and count Munster Rugby, Shannon RFC and UL Bohemian RFC as tenants. Limerick FC play home games in Thomond Park during this current 2013 League of Ireland season while the Markets Field is redeveloped. The capacity of the stadium is 26,500 following its large scale redevelopment in 2008.
The stadium holds a special place in rugby due to its own unique history and atmosphere. The stadium is famed for its noise during play and the complete silence while home and away players are kicking for goal. Munster also retained an intimidating 12 year unbeaten run at Thomond in the Heineken Cup – running from the competition's start in 1995 until 2007 when the Leicester Tigers broke the streak with a 13–6 win. It is at Thomond park that Munster celebrated their 12–0 victory over the All Blacks in 1978.
Thomond Park (Pháirc Thuamhan in Irish) originally consisted of two pitches, the main pitch and a training pitch. The main pitch was bounded on all sides by terracing with a stand located above the west terrace. The training pitch was located behind the west stand with the Shannon R.F.C. pavilion located in the southwest corner of the ground. The UL Bohemian R.F.C. pavilion was located within the west stand.
Traditionally, the former terracing and four sides of the pitch had local nicknames, however they have since fallen out of local parlance. The most famous of these was the east terrace which was known amongst fans as the "Popular side", this sat opposite the "Stand side", joining the "City End" (South Terrace) with the "Ballynanty End" (North Terrace). The "Popular side" gained notoriety in local rugby folklore for the colourful comments that can be heard emanating from local wags and alicadoos in the direction of the pitch, occasionally drawing reaction from players and officials, to the amusement of other attendants.
The highest pre-redevelopment official attendance in Thomond Park came in 1992 when a local derby in the All-Ireland League between clubs Shannon RFC and Garryowen FC saw 18,000 people cram into the old ground.It has been alleged that unofficial attendances for Heineken Cup home games involving Munster have been higher than this. There is also a tongue-in- cheek suggestion that 100,000 attended the historic defeat of the All Blacks in 1978, a nod to the mythical status the game has ascended to in local folklore. Since the redevelopment, attendance figures have generally averaged near the 26,000 (full capacity) mark.
In 1998 and 1999 following the introduction of the professional era the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) spent several million pounds on floodlighting, terracing, toilets, medical facilities and a new pitch for the ground. In January 2006, the Munster Branch of the IRFU made offers to buy some adjacent houses to expand the stadium. In March 2006 the IRFU and Munster Rugby announced that Thomond Park was unanimously selected for the site of the branch's new stadium, and in May 2006 the design for the re-development was unveiled. Work started in early 2007, and the project was completed for a re-opening in Autumn 2008.
It was thought that Thomond Park would be renamed in a sponsorship deal, following its redevelopment. However, it was confirmed in February 2008 that the name Thomond Park would remain the same, with naming rights being sold for the individual stands instead.
Thomond Park is well known for its unique atmosphere. During a rugby match, the home fans can be heard singing songs such as "The Fields Of Athenry" and "Stand Up And Fight". These two songs play a vital role in Munster rugby as they are Munster's anthems.
The home crowd is also famous for its silence when a team's kicker is kicking for goal. This has been known to put the away team's kicker off although it is done out of respect.
In August 2013 Thomond Park was awarded the title of 'Best Rugby Stadium in the World' following a vote by Rugby supporters across the globe.
The following international matches have been played at Thomond Park:
|Date||Competition||Home team||Away team|
|19 March 1898||1898 Home Nations Championship||Ireland||3||Wales||11|
|14 October 1999||1999 Rugby World Cup (Pool 5)||Australia||55||United States||19|
|7 September 2002||Friendly||Ireland||39||Romania||8|
|30 August 2003||Friendly (warm up for 2003 Rugby World Cup)||Ireland||61||Italy||6|
|8 November 2008||Friendly||Ireland||55||Canada||0|
|17 November 2012||Guinness Autumn International Series||Ireland||53||Fiji||0|
Other sporting fixtures
Limerick F.C. played all their Airtricity League Premier League home fixtures for the 2013 season at Thomond Park.
The Republic of Ireland national football team played two international friendlies in Thomond during the construction of the Aviva Stadium. The first, on 12 August 2009 against Australia drew a crowd just above 19,000. Australia won 3–0. Ireland played and defeated South Africa 1–0 at Thomond on 8 September 2009 to a crowd of 11,300.
On 5 November 2011, the stadium hosted its first ever Rugby League game when Ireland took on France.
- Elton John – 6 June 2009
- Rod Stewart – 4 July 2009
- P!nk with guest Butch Walker – 20 June 2010 – Funhouse Summer Carnival Tour
- Bob Dylan with guests David Gray, Seasick Steve & Alabama 3 – 4 July 2010
- The Cranberries – 9 June 2010 (Special Olympics opening ceremony – their first performance in their native city for over 15 years)
- JLS - 26 June 2011 with guest Olly Murs - JLS Tour
- Bruce Springsteen – 16 July 2013 – Wrecking Ball Tour
The highest pre-redevelopment official attendance in Thomond Park came in 1992 when a local derby in the All-Ireland League between clubs Shannon RFC and Garryowen FC saw 18,000 people cram into the old ground. It has been alleged that unofficial attendances for Heineken Cup home games involving Munster have been higher than this. There is also a tongue-in- cheek suggestion that 100,000 attended the historic defeat of the All Blacks in 1978, a nod to the mythical status the game has ascended to in local folklore. Since the redevelopment, attendance figures have generally averaged near the 26,000 (full capacity) mark.
Notes and references
- "O'Connell: We must do justice to new-look Thomond". Irish Independent. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- "History of the IRFU". Irish Rugby Football Union. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- Melville, Nigel (21 January 2004). "Fingers get burned when the home fire is stoked in Munster". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- "Michael Corcoran: Top 10". RTÉ News. 21 May 2008.
- Irish Examiner – "an old Thomond Park tradition (..) total silence for (the) kicker"
- "Gatland must resist desire to change for the sake of it". Irish Independent. 24 March 1998.
- Fanning, Brendan (2 December 2001). "Ireland's Holland okay for Munster". Irish Independent.
- Geraghty, Pat (21 June 2007). "Thomond Park Developments". Munster Rugby. Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. Retrieved 26 June 2007.
- "Thomond Park set to be renamed". RTÉ News. 20 June 2007.
- European Rugby Cup : Thomond Park Name to Remain a Fixture in Europe
- "Thomond Park Stadium named best in the world". www.stadiadirectory.com. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- Limerick prepares to host Special Olympics. RTÉ. 9 June 2010.
- "Rugby League World Cup 2013 fixtures". RFL. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2012.