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Royals grumble over Dubs final

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Dessie Farrell. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Dessie Farrell. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Dessie Farrell. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

THE Meath and Dublin county boards have got embroiled in a bizarre row over the fixing of the Leinster U21 football final for Portlaoise.

Meath originally wanted to toss for home venue and, when Dublin weren't agreeable, they even offered to play the April 2 decider at Parnell Park in preference to making the much longer journey to neutral O'Moore Park.

It then emerged that Parnell wasn't available because of remedial work due on the Donnycarney floodlights and pitch.

But Meath have refused to accept this official explanation. Their county board chairman, Conor Tormey, was "dumbfounded" by Dublin's refusal to countenance a toss for home venue, or to accept Meath's subsequent concession of home advantage.

His argument is that playing in O'Moore Park is unfair on players and fans, "defies logic" and will negatively impact on the attendance.

"It's an absolute joke, everybody in Meath can't believe that they're bringing us to Portlaoise," Tormey told The Herald.

GULLIBLE

On the subject of Parnell Park's unavailability, the Meath chief claimed: "No maintenance work happens on grounds in March. Unless they think we're gobshites altogether here in Meath ... we're not that gullible. Like, the lights were perfect the other night (for Meath's U21 semi-final against Offaly in Parnell Park) - one of the best lights in the country."

But Dublin chairman Andy Kettle insisted Parnell Park simply wasn't an option for Wednesday week (throw-in 7.30).

"Should Meath not choose to believe, that's their prerogative - but the work is actually taking place," Kettle countered.

"This thing had been booked in for quite some time, and we don't get very many windows to do work with Parnell Park.

"The pitch is in a bit of a state at the moment, and this was a window.

"Like, we never expected to be offered to play in Parnell Park because provincial semi-finals and finals are played in neutral venues."

This venue spat is sure to up the ante as Meath prepare for their first Leinster U21 final since 2001, against Dessie Farrell's hotly fancied 1/5 favourites.

Tormey complained that "taking these young lads out of school and out of work for a half-day" and bringing them to Portlaoise "doesn't make sense", whereas Kettle argued that this was proof Dublin footballers are willing to play outside their capital comfort zone.

"I spoke to Dessie Farrell (on Saturday) and he said that he had spoken to his players, and they were more than happy to go to Portlaoise," the Dublin chairman said.

"First of all, this theory that Dublin don't play outside their back yard - they want to put that to bed. Secondly, the joy of getting together, travelling down, they see it as a semi-adventure."

Tormey countered: "If they're afraid to play it in their own grounds, there's something wrong ... I know Longford gave Dublin a fright the other night and maybe that's what Dessie is worried about."

"Not at all," Kettle responded. "If you were given home advantage, theoretically it should give you an advantage ... we're not taking that."

Meath initially offered a home-and-away toss on Wednesday night, straight after the two counties had won their respective semi-finals. Kettle said no to this request, but Tormey got back onto him on Thursday with Meath's compromise offer of travelling to Parnell Park, with any replay going to Navan.

FLOODLIGHTS

In the meantime, though, Kettle spoke to Dublin CEO John Costello who informed him about the remedial/repair work booked in for the floodlights and playing surface.

Dublin subsequently came back with another proposal, to play the U21 final as a Croke Park curtain-raiser to next Saturday night's Allianz FL Division One clash between Dublin and Mayo. This drew a withering response from the Royals. "It was totally out of the question. Our seniors are playing Down in Páirc Tailteann (that night)," Tormey explained.

Kettle clarified that this offer was made in the mistaken belief that Meath's league game was taking place on the Sunday, adding that both counties had U21 players who may have been craved by their senior managers.

"We are not afraid to take on the Dubs anywhere," Tormey concluded, while his Dublin counterpart surmised: "Mind games are terribly, terribly easy played. But nobody is running scared. Like, there's going to be 15 Dublin players playing 15 Meath players Wednesday week, and the best team will win on the night."


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