‘We’ll bring the gospel to hurling country’ – Why Glenn Ryan opted for Nowlan Park to host Kildare’s Dubs rematch

Premium stadium: Kildare football manager Glenn Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Frank Roche

Glenn Ryan has confirmed his Kildare management team was fully on board with the proposal to bring their All-Ireland SFC showdown with Dublin to Nowlan Park.

With St Conleth’s Park closed for redevelopment, the Lilies were compelled to nominate a suitable location from outside the county as their home venue for the round-robin clash on Saturday, June 3.

However, instead of more adjacent alternatives such as Portlaoise, Carlow or Tullamore, Kildare have opted for the home of Kilkenny hurling, which is almost 84km away from their usual Newbridge base.

Kildare played in Nowlan Park twice in 2002, eventually banishing Offaly in a Leinster semi-final at the second attempt. Ryan came off the bench in that replay, while his co-selectors Anthony Rainbow, Dermot Earley and Johnny Doyle all started. But few of his current players are likely to be familiar with the venue.

“We’ll try and bring the gospel down to hurling country,” said Ryan, confirming that they had “all discussed it and we would have been happy with Nowlan Park.”

He expanded: “It’s a premium stadium; it’s got a great surface. And when we all went down to look at it, we were all very happy with what we saw.”

Ryan reignited an old controversy last month when claiming that Croke Park was not a neutral venue for Dublin after Kildare’s narrow Leinster semi-final defeat to Dessie Farrell’s men.

The Kildare boss was left deeply frustrated by their failure to protect a late three-point lead away to Sligo on Sunday, and their eventual 0-14 apiece stalemate could leave them struggling to qualify from their group. But their prospects of a successful rebound should be boosted by the availability of Ben McCormack, a late injury withdrawal at the weekend.

“He picked up something during the week,” Ryan explained. “You’re looking at this as a mini-league. He wouldn’t have been too far off [against Sligo], but it could have ruled him out the next day and I’d prefer to get two good games, three good games or whatever the case is going to be.”

Meanwhile, Tony McEntee is adamant that the CCCC must resist the temptation to fix Sligo’s final group outing – against Dublin – for Croke Park.

Asked for his venue preference, the Sligo manager said: “Longford, Cavan, somewhere neutral – clearly not Croke Park! Listen, Dublin have nothing to gain by playing us in Croke Park, a small county like Sligo. They can come and play us anywhere. The result, let’s be honest, is irrelevant … what we’re looking to do is get a neutral venue, and sure the Dubs can then say they played away from home.”