Friday night Croker fever for Dubs and Kildare
THE prospect of a Friday night league fixture under lights in Croke Park is gathering momentum after Kildare's decision to switch to headquarters for two of their four home Division 1 league matches next spring.
Kildare's move means that Dublin will have five home league matches in Division 1 next year, possibly all at Croke Park.
Dublin chairman Andy Kettle gave his backing to a Friday night date in March for the Kildare/Dublin match, one of two Kildare have agreed to move on after a lucrative financial incentive, believed to be between €60,000 and €70,000, was laid down during negotiations.
Kettle (right) feels the fixture, originally set for Sunday, March 10, "ticks all the right boxes" for a Friday night fixture that the GAA at some levels have been keen to road test.
With Ireland playing France at the Aviva Stadium at 5.0 on the Saturday evening of that weekend, a Kildare/Dublin fixture could not go ahead later on across the city in Croke Park.
Kettle believes it's an "ideal opportunity" to play a match of this nature on a Friday night and see how it works out.
"It would be a stand-alone fixture, even on a Sunday, so why not play it on a Friday night?" he said.
"You can't get two counties in closer proximity than ourselves and Kildare.
"The GAA has always said that it required teams with short distances to travel to make it happen. We think it's very possible this time."
Dublin were thwarted in their efforts to stage the Mayo league match at Croke Park less than two years ago when the GAA"s Central Competitions Controls Committee opposed the move. It was felt at the time that concerns over having to reimburse players for loss of income was behind the refusal. This time, it is believed the CCCC may be receptive to it.
Ironically, Dublin chief executive John Costello raised the prospect of Thursday and Friday night games in his annual report published yesterday and said the GAA shouldn't be afraid to stage them.
Kildare have also agreed to play their opening league match against All-Ireland champions Donegal in Croke Park and that will probably be the curtain-raiser to Dublin and Cork on Saturday, February 2.
The Kildare decision was not forced upon them over capacity issues at their own home venue, the Irish Independent understands, but the financial incentive will help them to plough money into St Conleth's Park which will enable them to stage their other league matches against Kerry and Tyrone there.
Kildare estimate they need €100,000 to bring the capacity up from 6,100 to 8,500.
Dublin were due to meet last night to discuss a third Spring Series, which is now back on the cards.
In his report, Costello hints at scepticism towards Dublin on a number of fronts, including the Spring Series and the Blue Wave document, which was the name of their strategic report released last year.
Costello says the document was met with "hostility and derision" in some quarters while he questions those who doubt the sustainability of the Spring Series in the future.
"Instead of carping that Dublin are playing in front of a two-thirds empty stadium, why not accentuate the many positives of the Spring Series?" he asked.
Elsewhere, the Ulster Council may receive an interim report at a meeting tomorrow night on the status of the investigation into allegations of racist remarks made against Crossmaglen player Aaron Cunningham in the Ulster club football final.
The Ulster Council set up an investigation and at last night's launch of the province's McKenna Cup competition, provincial president Aoghan Farrell stressed the need for expediency into the report.
"We set up the investigation and we can't instruct but we advised the people carrying out the investigation that it should be swift," said Farrell.