Wednesday 13 December 2017

Blow for Dubs fans as Croker double-bills ruled out for Spring Series

Cork are through to the All-Ireland Ladies Football final at Croke Park
Cork are through to the All-Ireland Ladies Football final at Croke Park
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ALL-IRELAND football champions Dublin will continue to play their home Allianz League games in Croke Park next year, but their Spring Series will not include any double-headers with the county's hurlers.

Despite winning Leinster and reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals, Anthony Daly's hurlers look set to play all their 2014 NHL games at Parnell Park, which has a capacity of less than 10,000.

Kildare were approached about moving their opening NFL game – an attractive home tie against beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo – to become part of a bumper opening night double-header at Croker on Saturday, February 1.

That would certainly have made for a great start to the league in front of a big crowd, but it is understood that no agreement could be found and Kildare's game against Mayo now seems certain to be played in Newbridge on Sunday, February 2

The 2014 master fixture list was released yesterday, but only dates, not venues, were given for the games.

Dublin have played all their home NFL games at Croke Park for the past three years and often as double-headers with their hurlers in a big marketing campaign billed as the Spring Series.

It proved a great crowd-puller initially, but attendances dropped last year and next season's league draws did not easily facilitate double-headers as there were no weekends when both teams were at home.

One potential crowd-puller would have been a double-header involving the Dublin footballers against Cork and the Dublin hurlers against All-Ireland champions Clare, on Saturday night, March 1.

This would have involved moving the hurlers' clash with the Banner from its original date of Sunday, February 23 and the Irish Independent has confirmed that Clare were open to that in order to get a game, under lights, in Croker.

But the timing of the Fitzgibbon Cup final – the first weekend in March – appears to have stymied that plan.

GAA sources said last night that Dublin have not yet signed an official agreement to use Croker for their 2014 NFL games and county officials were unavailable for comment.

But this looks inevitable given that Parnell Park now has a capacity of less than 10,000 and all of Dublin's four NFL games – versus Kerry (February 1), Cork (March 1), Kildare (March 8) and their All-Ireland final rematch with Mayo on March 29 – are listed as Saturday night fixtures with 7.0 throw-ins.

Only 10,000 attended Dublin's home game against Down last season, but they are expected to try to maximise their All-Ireland status again by selling Spring Series ticket packages and jazzing them up with additional musical entertainment.

Clare will get their league campaign off to a bang by hosting Kilkenny on Sunday, February 15, but the NHL will start the previous evening with two big all-Munster night games – a rematch of the provincial final between Cork (h) and Limerick plus Tipperary (h) against Waterford.

Davy Fitzgerald's men have to travel to Tipp in the third round (March 8) and will be one of several counties who will play double-headers with their footballers that weekend.

GAA history will be made on February 7 when Armagh host Down in the first Friday night Allianz League game, but efforts to get Kildare to also play Dublin on a Friday night failed.

Despite all the talk about rejigging the NHL, the only substantial difference is the introduction of quarter-finals in Division 1 to give each team an extra game.

There is no longer a Division 1B final – the bottom team after a relegation play-off in 1A automatically goes down and the loser of the 1B relegation play-off plays the 2A champions to decide the last place in 1B for 2015.

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