History was made earlier this month when the first ever indoor inter-county GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) match was staged between Sligo and Leitrim.
It took place at the Connacht GAA air dome, the largest indoor sports facility of its kind in the world, and provides a glimpse into the future not only for GAA but all types of sport across Ireland.
In a country where, especially in the winter months, climactic conditions can play a significant outcome on the results of a match, or even if it takes at all, there it seems there is now the perfect answer.
And whilst some may argue that weather adds to the unpredictability of the sport, there are others who believe that it can make too much like the games of chance which feature in this online casino guide, Playstival.ie.
Now thanks to the expertise of Slovenia firm DBS Engineering, and a number of local Irish companies, all that is a thing of the past.
The new facility is essentially a full GAA AstroTurf pitch which is covered by an inflated air dome. It also features a fully-equipped gym and a running track.
There is scope for a matchday crowd of up to 2,000 spectators – although current Covid restrictions in Ireland mean that all matches must take place behind closed doors.
And to demonstrate its versatility, when not in use for sporting events, the air dome can be used to host conferences, corporate events, or concerts, accommodating up o 10,000, allowing for a mix of standing and sitting patrons.
The dome has a roof height of 26 meters – twice the height of the goalposts – which means there is no danger of either a football or sliotar hitting the ceiling, although Connacht GAA have offered a prize for anybody who succeeds in managing it.
The new facility, which is located in the West of Ireland between Knock and Ballyhaunis, has not come cheap. It has cost €3.1 million to build, and that is before the daily maintenance costs on top. However, thanks to its multi-purpose nature and the fact that it can be used 24/7 all year round, it is hoped that it will more than pay for itself.
Sligo won the game itself, just edging out their opponents who, having trailed at half-time, came back strongly towards then end of the match. However, all the players enjoyed the experience of playing in the new environment, even if some did admit that it took a little getting used to at first.
Research has shown that GAA has overtaken football to become the most popular sport in Ireland in recent years, with rugby, tennis, golf and swimming trailing behind them.
In terms of individual athletes though, it is boxing champion Katie Taylor who consistently tops polls as the most popular. A two-weight world champion, she is the current undisputed lightweight champion, having held the world title since 2017.
In 2019 she became one of only eight boxers – male or female – to have held all four major titles – WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO – at the same time.