Tuesday 16 January 2018

Kildare fear losing home advantage for league ties

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kildare footballers are facing the unprecedented prospect of having to move all their 'home' league games out of the county.

The Lilywhites look like they will have a battle on their hands to hang onto the four plum home fixtures which mark their return to the top flight of the Allianz FL in 2013.

Kieran McGeeney's men have been drawn to host All-Ireland champions Donegal in their first match, on Sunday February 3, and will have further 'home' games against Kerry, Dublin and Tyrone -- three of the top sides in a very competitive Division 1.

However, this has also handed Kildare GAA chiefs a major dilemma as the restricted capacity of St Conleth's Park in Newbridge -- estimated to be 8,000 this summer when they had to shift their home qualifier with Limerick to Portlaoise -- has placed it under threat for some of those matches.

Counties have received the 'draft' league fixture list and have been asked to make submissions on venues and other observations to the Central Competitions Controls Committee (CCCC) before Central Council approves them at their next meeting later this month.

But the CCCC will have to run the venues by the national safety and infrastructure committee, and that's where problems could lie for Kildare.

The proposed opener against Donegal is sure to attract huge interest given the visitors' status as All-Ireland champions.

Kildare are one of the country's best supported counties and the interest in Donegal could push the potential crowd well beyond 8,000.

The visit of Dublin on Sunday, March 10 will also tax the limitations of the St Conleth's Park capacity, which had one of the biggest reductions of any venue in the Slattery Report that was presented to the GAA's Management Committee last year.

Initially the report had the capacity at 6,000, but remedial work brought that beyond 7,000 and closer to 8,000 for the summer.

Kildare are sure to fight hard to keep as many of the four games as possible in Newbridge.

Last year's decision by the CCCC to move the Limerick game to Portlaoise was an obvious blow, but a crowd of over 12,000 was accommodated at O'Moore Park.

One possibility for the Donegal game would be to switch it to Croke Park on the Saturday night, February 2 as a double-header with the Dublin-Cork fixture.

Earlier this year Kildare County Board pitched in with Dublin to play their opening league match against Tyrone in Croke Park.

That Dublin-Cork match is scheduled to open the league programme, but even if the All-Ireland champions did not have top billing, it would still be a very attractive double-header.

Irish Independent

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