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Spring series uncertain

DUBLIN county board chairman Andy Kettle has cast doubt on the future of the Spring Series -- and blamed Croke Park prevarication for all the uncertainty.

According to Kettle, the Dublin footballers will have to consider bringing their Allianz League matches back to Parnell Park if the GAA, at central level, delays any further in reaching a decision on the venue for Kildare's home league fixtures.

"You would need to know, at the latest, next week," he claimed.


But Kildare, for their part, remain "adamant" that their four home games in Division One will be played in Newbridge, even with a seriously curtailed capacity, rather than having to move some of their fixtures to neutral Croke Park.

If the first scenario unfolds, Dublin will struggle to accommodate more than one league double-header (involving the Sky Blue footballers and hurlers) at Croker ... and that would surely scupper plans for any meaningful third instalment of the Spring Series.

Speaking at the launch of Dublin's new jersey for 2013, Kettle made it clear that he doesn't blame Kildare for their defiant campaign to preserve home status. But he does blame GAA headquarters for dragging the matter out for almost two months.

"The Spring Series is in negotiation at the moment but, to be quite honest, I am getting a little bit frustrated," the Dublin chairman admitted. We expected maybe a decision on Kildare's home games, which would have then cleared the way for us to make some other decisions. But that hasn't been forthcoming and I would have to say I am a little bit disappointed with the lack of activity from Croke Park, because it's only there that it will happen or not happen.

"From Kildare's point of view, they are quite entitled to look to play their games in Conleth's -- and if I were chairman of the Kildare county board, that's the road I would probably be going," he added.

"But if the health and safety committee come out and say 'Sorry, you can't' ... well then, the obvious place for them is in Croke Park."

Therein lies the rub, however: who exactly will decide where Kildare play?

The newly promoted Lilywhites are desperate to retain home advantage, even though an antiquated St Conleth's Park has seen its capacity slashed to approximately 6,200 under health and safety guidelines.

They lost home advantage for a qualifier against Limerick last summer, fuelling concerns that the Central Competitions Control Committee might make a similar call for at least some of their upcoming top-flight encounters.

But the CCCC has yet to make any official pronouncement, while the only word from Croke Park yesterday was that, as matters stand, they remain Kildare home fixtures.

That's certainly the stated belief of the Kildare county board. "We've got nothing official from Croke Park," chairman John McMahon told the Evening Herald. "As far as we're concerned, we have four home league matches in 2013. There's a capacity in Conleth's Park of, at this point in time, just over 6,000. We are adamant that our games will be played in Conleth's Park. We have just been promoted to Division One; we need our advantage for our home games."

But if the powers rule otherwise, Croke Park would be an obvious alternative -- hence Dublin's vested interest as they seek some viable double-headers to complete a Spring Series package for 2013.


As matters stand, they have just one double-header definitely nailed down -- the Dublin hurlers host Limerick while the Sky Blue footballers take on Tyrone on Saturday night, March 16. But switching Kildare games to Croker would pave the way for several more crowd-pulling double-headers: such as Kildare/Donegal followed by Dublin/Cork on the first night of the new league season, Saturday, February 2.

Kettle argued that, once Dublin know what is happening, they can "come to an agreement with Kildare financially and work it out".

He cited several potential double-headers involving Leinster's two big rivals. "Certainly the first one, the Donegal/Kildare match, would be an obvious one to match up with ourselves and Cork. Our own match with Kildare, which is an away match for us, could be a possibility as well. And then I think there is one other one with Kerry and Kildare, which would fit in nicely," Kettle speculated.

So we asked his Kildare counterpart had there been any negotiation with Dublin thus far? "No. Straight question, straight answer," John McMahon replied. He insisted nobody has contacted them about taking games out of Newbridge, adding: "Nobody has made any offer to us at all."

According to McMahon, Kildare met the infrastructure and safety committee a number of weeks ago and were told they might "expect something" from them this week.

Kettle is even more impatient for news. "Being pushed back time-wise, we are going to miss the Christmas market from a ticket sales point of view, and it's not making it any easier. So if things don't happen -- I won't say reasonably quickly but -- we will have to look at the possibility at coming back here to Parnell," he concluded.