Tuesday 20 March 2018

O'Loughlin adamant he won't be in Nowlan Park

Declan O'Loughlin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Declan O'Loughlin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Former Laois football selector Declan O'Loughlin remains adamant that he won't be in Nowlan Park on Saturday night for his county's Leinster quarter-final with Dublin in protest at the choice of venue.

O'Loughlin, who was a selector with Mick O'Dwyer when they won their only provincial title in the last 70 years by beating Kildare in the 2003 final, says he feels even stronger about the decision now than he did when it was originally decided back in November.

At the time O'Loughlin called for a boycott of the game by Laois people and even went as far as suggesting that the Laois County Board would not approve the game, if they beat Wicklow to qualify for the quarter-final.

That hasn't materialised but O'Loughlin still maintains many Laois people will not be making the journey across the Marble City out of opposition to Nowlan Park's preference as a venue over O'Moore Park. O'Loughlin says it will be the first time in 50 years that he has missed a Laois championship match.

"There are a lot of former Laois players that I know who are up in arms. We said we're not going. It's so unfair. There is no argument for the match in Kilkenny," he maintained.

Leinster Council have repeatedly outlined that Nowlan Park was selected over O'Moore Park because of superior seating arrangements.

If a Dublin championship match was being taken out of Croke Park then they had to be mindful of season-ticket holders and with 17,800 seats, the Kilkenny venue accommodated that demand comfortably.

O'Loughlin has countered, maintaining Dublin supporters would have no problem standing in O'Moore Park and that it was as much as the Laois players deserved.

"Dublin have played so little outside Croke Park. I think it's over 70 years or more since they played in O'Moore Park in a championship match.

"Surely the Laois players deserve that, to play Dublin in their own home ground?" he asked.

"It is out of order. I imagine if you speak to most people, they are not going. But what can you do? Laois are small fry. We're not big enough."

He also questioned the assertion that this wasn't a home fixture for Laois.

"Right across the provinces, including Leinster, there are teams playing at home at the quarter-final stage," he pointed out.

O'Loughlin's nephew John plays for Laois but even that won't draw him to travel.

O'Loughlin has claimed that the interest in this game in Kilkenny is non-existent and that there will be no take-up by neutrals.

"When Offaly and Kildare played there in 2002, Kildare were going well and Micko was in charge yet there was still only 8,000," he said.

Nowlan Park is however arguably the top mid-sized ground in the country.

Laois, for whom former Galway hurling manager Anthony Cunningham has joined the backroom team in recent weeks, will have Colm Begley back after he missed the win over Wicklow through injury.

Irish Independent

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