Friday 20 April 2018

GAA director-general Paraic Duffy defends Roscommon over Dr Hyde Park debacle

Dublin supporters arrive by coach before the game. Please note that the buses pictured are private buses that were no way involved in the confusion over fans charged
Dublin supporters arrive by coach before the game. Please note that the buses pictured are private buses that were no way involved in the confusion over fans charged
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

GAA director-general Paraic Duffy has defended Roscommon's handling of the Dr Hyde Park pitch fiasco that saw the Allianz League match with Dublin moved to Carrick-on-Shannon at short notice on Sunday morning.

Duffy did accept there may have been grounds for making the decision earlier but said he understood that for Roscommon it was a "huge call."

The Hyde Park surface has caused endless problems for Roscommon during first season back in Division One with the result that they played their four home games at four different  venues, Kiltoom (Monaghan), Hyde Park (Mayo) and two outside the county, Pearse Park in Longford (Down) and Carrick-on-Shannon in Leitrim (Dublin).

After the mud-bath that the Mayo game was seven days earlier huge doubts were raised over viability of the surface for the visit of the All-Ireland champions.

But Roscommon's desire to host Dublin, giving the local economy a lift in the process, resulted in an 11th hour decision that ultimately backfired.

Duffy, speaking at a press briefing to unveil the GAA's National Games Development Centre at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, outlined that the pitch was inspected on Friday evening and was "absolutely playable." 

"A lot of work had been done on it during the week," he said. "Obviously there were concerns about the weather forecast, and what might happen over the weekend, and it was inspected again on Saturday by an inter-county referee."

At that stage there were doubts expressed, he conceded, and that was probably the time to pull the plug and make the switch.

"There was water on the pitch, and it all depended on what happened overnight. There was consideration given at that stage whether the game should be changed," he said.

"Having said that, changing the game was a big call. For Roscommon it was a huge game with the All-Ireland champions at home and they wanted to play it at home for all kinds of reasons, the local community, etc.

"The decision was taken then to inspect again on the Sunday morning, again by an inter-county referee. It rained overnight unfortunately and the decision was taken to move the game.

"Of course we could have made a decision to pull it out of there on Saturday, but if it turned out Hyde Park was playable on Sunday, people would say 'why didn'’t you wait until the Sunday.'

"So you can’t win in this situation. I don'’t think too many people were inconvenienced. Some were, not too many."

"The long term issue here is they need to rectify the situation at Hyde Park. We’ve had meetings with Roscommon already this year about that. There’s a job needs to be done there. That’s the issue. I think in the circumstances you were in, it was a no win situation. It’s a matter of opinion after that."

The GAA laid on two buses to supporters who had used public transport and, according to Duffy, one of those buses wasn't full.

He also praised the input of Leitrim officials and ground staff in making their facility available at such short notice.

Roscommon were confident for much of the week that the game would go ahead in Hyde Park with the Connacht Council even moving the U-21 final to Markievicz Park in Sligo to facilitate it.

"If you’d played on Saturday (U-21) and the pitch was playable on Sunday but very cut up, you’d have criticism for letting an U-21 game go ahead," said Duffy.

"These all require judgments and people can form their own opinion. I personally feel, in the circumstances, it was handled pretty well. I wouldn’t criticise Roscommon, our own CCCC and I certainly wouldn’t criticise Leitrim."

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