O'Neill insists Kildare qualifier switched to accommodate fans
GAA president Liam O'Neill has dismissed any lingering doubt there may be about the motives for moving Kildare's third-round SFC qualifier against Limerick to Portlaoise.
"The fact of the matter is that a huge number of Kildare people want to see this game. The Central Competitions Controls Committee (CCCC), in consultation with our safety committee, deemed that the number wanting to see the game exceeds the number that can be held in Newbridge," he said.
"The sensible thing to do was to allow as many people as possible to see the game, and the only venue in which that could be accommodated, near to Kildare, was Portlaoise -- and they fixed it for that. Kildare people are level-headed enough (to accept it)."
O'Neill, speaking at the launch of the closing stages of the All-Ireland hurling championships at Waterford IT's sports campus, went on to reject recent criticism of referees and believes the mentoring approach being adopted by new referees chairman Pat McEnaney will pay dividends over the next few years.
He also believes referees have to be more confident about themselves.
"I think referees have to feel confident, they have to feel valued to perform," he said. "It is the most difficult job in the world and, particularly, our games, played at such speed.
"Rugby and soccer are played at a leisurely pace compared with our games. A referee has to be really on top of his performance to play well.
"The referee only gets a second in real time, and it's difficult sometimes to listen to pundits who watch an incident 15 times before they can decide whether a ball was over the line, not over the line or wide. That's where the real bravery is and the real concentration is.
"We're moving from a stage of rigorous assessment where you started off with 100 marks and you were docked points for various things, to a stage where we now have a mentoring system.
"Each referee will have a mentor, and the positives of his game -- as well as the areas of his game where he has to improve -- will be pointed out to him."
Elsewhere, Limerick defender Tom Condon has emerged as a major doubt for the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final clash with Kilkenny on Sunday week.
Condon limped out of the qualifier victory over Clare at Semple Stadium last Saturday evening with 10 minutes to go.
It has emerged the Knockaderry defender has also sustained medial knee ligament damage.
Manager John Allen said last night: "It's grade 2 damage -- Tom is not entirely ruled out, but he's a doubt. Other than that, we're OK."
Meanwhile, the county's senior football team boss Maurice Horan is hoping to welcome back corner forward Ger Collins from injury for the All-Ireland SFC showdown with the Lilywhites.
"The one thing about Portlaoise is that it's a lovely venue, very well laid out, with fine big dressing rooms," Horan said. "The pitch has a lovely surface and there was a great atmosphere there last year.
"Kildare will be very strong favourites, but that's not a bad way for us to be going in. But we know that we're up against one of the best teams in the country, looking to get their season back on track after the Leinster semi-final. But we had a huge match against Longford, who were also a form team. We back ourselves and we'll go for it."