Kildare to help Dublin host Spring Series
Dublin’s popular Croke Park Spring Series is “back on the bill” for 2013, thanks in part to an agreement that Kildare also play certain home games in the Allianz Football League at GAA headquarters.
Dublin chairman Andy Kettle last night confirmed negotiations were nearing completion to agree at least a three-game series, with the possibility of a fourth: Kettle also hinted that Dublin would be pushing to play one of those games on a Friday evening as a way of further increasing the profile of the Allianz League.
“I wouldn’t say it is official just yet,” he said, “but the Series is certainly back on the bill, at about 90 per cent of the ideal scenario for us. There are still some things we need to agree on, and that may well spill over into the New Year, but I think that once again we’ll have some great promotion for these league games, for all the counties involved.”
Crucial to extending the Series into 2013 was getting Kildare to concede home advantage for two games, set for St Conleth’s Park, and play them instead in Croke Park. This was helped by the fact Kildare faced capacity issues at St Conleth’s Park, due to health and safety reasons, and have also been offered a financial incentive of around €70,000, which will be put towards the necessary upgrade of their home ground.
Part of Dublin’s problem was their footballers and hurlers are only on the same ticket for one Saturday night, March 16th, when they face Tyrone and Limerick respectively. Now, however, the 2013 football league is set to start off with a Croke Park double-header on Saturday, February 2nd, featuring Dublin against Cork, and Kildare’s opening “home” game against All-Ireland champions Donegal.
After that will be the Kildare-Dublin game, set for Sunday, March 10th, with Kildare again conceding home advantage.
Kettle is hopeful that game can now be set for Friday, March 8th, as it almost certainly won’t be played on the Saturday, as that would clash with Ireland’s home Six Nations game against France.
“I think this is the perfect occasion to test the water for a Friday evening game,” he said.
“The GAA have insisted it could only be between neighbouring counties, and you can’t get more neighbourly than Dublin and Kildare. But right now it looks like we have at least three definite, including our own double-header on March 16th. If Santa Claus was to come early we might agree to a fourth game too, say if the Kildare-Kerry game was also moved to Croke Park on March 2nd, when we play Mayo.”
Whatever financial incentive has been offered to Kildare, however, has come from Croke Park, not Dublin, although Kettle was certain it was all money well spent.
Dublin county secretary John Costello also highlights the potential – and indeed further potential, if Friday games are considered – of the Spring Series, in his lengthy 11,000 word report to next Monday’s county convention.
“In the first year we had combined attendances of over 112,000 at the four Spring Series dates, with over 35,000 coming to each of our two football and hurling double-headers. Last spring we had three Saturday night double-headers at Croke Park and a cumulative crowd of over 94,000, including 45,838 (a Spring Series record) for our opening night foray, when Kildare and Tyrone footballers provided the curtain-raiser for the main event, a reprise of the previous year’s All-Ireland final between the Dublin and Kerry . . . . it’s still a great idea and well worth persisting with.”
On the subject of Friday evening games, Costello says: “We must open our minds more to midweek/Thursday/ Friday night matches where it is practical for the competing counties.”
On other issues, Costello slams RTÉ for providing “zero live coverage of our national games between the end of September and May”. He gives his general backing to the Football Review Committee.