Friday 23 March 2018

Galway fury: Officials 'gobsmacked' over NHL final's late start

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA are expected to stick to their original 7.0 Sunday evening throw-in for the National Hurling League final in Thurles despite growing pressure from irate Galway officials for change.

Galway were yesterday planning to lodge an objection to the late throw-in time, which is designed to avoid a clash with Munster's Heineken Cup semi-final with Biarritz in San Sebastian.

However, the GAA is understood to be satisfied that the 7.0 throw-in on Sunday May 2 is the best option available to them.

Galway will press for the game to be fixed for the Bank Holiday Monday instead, but that is understood to have already been considered by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC). It's likely that the All-Ireland U-21 final will go ahead on that date.

The 2005 National Hurling League final between Kilkenny and Clare went ahead on the Bank Holiday Monday when in excess of 22,000 spectators paid into Thurles, 6,000 more than the '03 final between Kilkenny and Tipperary which was played on the Bank Holiday Monday at Croke Park.

Galway are basing their objection on what they feel is the unattractiveness of the time, especially for parents who want to bring children to the game.

Hurling Board chairman Joe Byrne said he was "gobsmacked" when he heard that the game was taking place at that time of the evening.

"An earlier start on Sunday is one option, but we feel it should be just moved to Monday and we will be making every effort in the coming days to ensure that common sense prevails," he said.

Byrne noted that the fixture was made before the date and time of Munster's European semi-final was known.

"We have put a huge effort this year into promoting the game with children and making the link between them and the flagship team in the county, the senior hurlers," he said.

"We have put schemes in place to encourage parents to bring their children along -- they all now go on the pitch for a few pucks at half-time during a league match in Pearse Stadium, there are autograph sessions with players, free jersey offers and so on.

"But now, having reached the final, we find that it would be around midnight before they are back home from Thurles and that certainly does not encourage parents to bring young children.

"Putting the match on at that hour is a kick in the backside to all the efforts to involve the children right through the league campaign."

He added: "Why on earth are we making it so unattractive to supporters -- especially parents -- when we should be doing the opposite. We should ensure that the second biggest hurling final of the year is on at a time that encourages people to attend."

Galway Hurling Board was due to meet last night where they would formalise their objection.

Cork have no such objections and Board chairman Jerry O'Sullivan agrees that avoiding a clash with the Munster game made sense.

He said Cork hadn't looked for it, but were happy to fulfil a fixture at whatever time they were given.

Irish Independent

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