Waterford fairytale continues with Croker date
WATERFORD footballers' fairytale season continued yesterday when it emerged that all four of the Allianz National Football League finals will take place in Croke Park in a fortnight's time.
The Decies secured promotion from Division 4 for the first time in their history last Sunday and were doubly boosted to learn that they're going to HQ to play Limerick on Saturday week as part of a double-header with the Division 3 decider.
The latter is, unusually, an exact replica of the 2009 Division 4 final between Antrim and Sligo which the latter won so both counties were equally delighted with the venue, especially as last year's lower-order football finals were played in Longford.
"This is great news, it's every player's dream to play in Croke Park, at any stage of the season," said Sligo captain Charlie Harrison.
"Teams like us don't get to play in Croke Park very often so it will be a fantastic experience for our players to get a game there," said Antrim manager Liam Bradley.
He argued that the GAA could actually have attracted bigger crowds by organising the two double-headers on provincial lines.
"If our game was combined with the Division 2 final between Armagh and Down I think they could have got a great crowd to Dublin," Bradley said.
"Considering there's three Munster teams involved in the Division 1 and 4 finals it probably made more sense to put those two together as well but, either way, we are delighted to get to play there," he added.
That both counties are lined up against each other in consecutive finals is unusual.
"It is fantastic to be in a final for a second year running, even if it does mean meeting Antrim again," Sligo corner-back Harrison said.
"Division 3 wasn't easy by any means, we found it tough at times but I suppose it is a good reflection on both counties that we got promoted and are back playing each other in a league final again.
"We actually play a similar style game, we're two very hard-working teams and there is never much between us so it will be nip and tuck again," Harrison added.
When they met in the early rounds of last year's Division 4 Antrim won but Sligo pipped them by two points in the final, despite being reduced to 14 men in the second half.
Having been promoted, the sides then actually found themselves drawn to meet first day out this season when Antrim won by a point up in Casement Park.
Meanwhile, Dublin's U-21 footballers travel to Cavan on Saturday (7.30) to take on Roscommon in the Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 football semi-finals.
The other game, between Tipperary and Donegal, is fixed for Parnell Park (7.30) and both are being covered by TG4.
National League Final Fixtures (all Croke Park)
Saturday, May 24: Division 4 NFL (Limerick v Waterford), 5.0; Division 3 NFL (Antrim v Sligo), 7.0.
Sunday, May 25: Division 2 NFL (Down v Armagh), 2.0; Division 1 NFL (Cork v Mayo), 4.0.