Monday 14 October 2019

Kildare on collision course with GAA over calls to fix Mayo clash for Croke Park

Newbridge or nowhere – Kildare’s ultimatum

A general view of St Conleth's Park in Newbridge, Kildare. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
A general view of St Conleth's Park in Newbridge, Kildare. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Colm Keys​

Kildare are on a collision course with Croke Park after their insistence last night that they will not be playing their third-round qualifier against Mayo anywhere else but their home venue in Newbridge, St Conleth's Park.

Kildare were out of yesterday morning's draw first to play Mayo, giving them home advantage but because of safety concerns, the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) directed that St Conleth's Park could not host the venue.

Offered the choice of an alternative venue Kildare did not respond ahead of a noon CCCC meeting, prompting the games administration body to fix it for 7pm in Croke Park on a double bill with Cavan and Tyrone.

Cavan also had home advantage but Kingspan Breffni Park is currently not available because of work being done on the surface.

Kildare's ire over the loss of home venue quickly escalated and it culminated in a lengthy statement outlining their resistance and determination that their venue could host an all-ticket match.

The GAA estimate that the capacity in Newbridge is just over 9,000. But an all-ticket match takes 10 per cent off that, reducing it to around 8,300.

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Given that Mayo have such a huge travelling support and interest in Kildare would also be high, CCCC estimated that demand could be twice that of supply.

There were fears that a Saturday clash with the Irish Derby at the Curragh nearby would thwart the fixture in Newbridge but Kildare said in their statement that they had Garda clearance to go ahead with a 7.0pm throw-in.

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On RTÉ last night Kildare manager Cian O'Neill backed up his county's statement and insisted that his players would be togging out in Newbridge on Saturday night.

The board and team management appear to have very solid support in Kildare for their stance, even if it means forfeiting the fixture.

For their part the GAA are adamant that they will not retreat from their position and that safety in Kildare is paramount.

"I can fully understand Kildare's position but the prospect of so many supporters going to Newbridge without tickets was something we had to consider. There will be very big demand for this fixture and we could not sign off on a safety statement in those circumstances," said the GAA's director of games administration Fergal McGill.

McGill suggested that if Kildare drew any of the other six teams St Conleth's Park would have been a satisfactory venue. But Mayo are one of the best-supported teams in the country.

He also stressed that if Kildare had nominated Portlaoise or Tullamore the game would not have been fixed for Croke Park and Cavan could then have played Tyrone in Brewster Park, Enniskillen.

Not since Tipperary in 2004 has a county failed to fulfil a championship fixture. Tipp forfeited a qualifier against Fermanagh because of an internal wrangle over hurling fixtures in the week of that game.

St Conleth's Park is due to undergo extensive refurbishment with planning permission recently sought for a new stand at a cost of €7.5m which aims to bring capacity up to 15,000 by 2020.

The other third-round qualifier games are Leitrim v Monaghan, 2.30, Páirc Sean MacDiarmada, Carrick-on-Shannon and Armagh v Clare, Athletic Grounds, 3.0.

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