The Irish Times view on the Kildare v Mayo venue controversy: Peace at a high price

The row became a lightning rod for those unhappy at the commercialisation of the GAA

With the exception of the chamber in Newgrange at Winter Solstice, it's hard to think of an event this year that will command such widespread interest and yet play to such a small audience as today's All-Ireland football qualifier in Newbridge.

The controversy over where to stage the Kildare-Mayo match has been acutely embarrassing for the GAA. Its origins as a stand-off between the association's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) and Kildare were bad enough in that a county was defying the body charged with organising fixtures, but the hasty volte face has bought peace at a high price.

At the core of the problem is the small capacity, 8,200, of the Newbridge venue, St Conleth’s Park. The original decision to switch the fixture to Croke Park was based on health and safety concerns that the match would attract too many people, many of whom wouldn’t have tickets and that public order issues might arise. This was viewed by many as a dubious source of concern, as there was scant evidence of such difficulties materialising at previous all-ticket matches, but it was a view that the CCCC was authorised to take.

Kildare’s public defiance of the fixture arrangements followed by Croke Park’s blunt response that Mayo would in those circumstances be granted a forfeit, set the collision course. The controversy took flight on social media, becoming a lightning rod for those unhappy at the perceived over-commercialisation of the GAA by its national administration as well as growing discontent at the apparent reluctance to allow counties with smaller venues to host championship matches.

Wednesday’s announcement that the decision had been reversed has laid in store two problems for the GAA: firstly the sense that health and safety concerns – already becoming virtually a term of abuse in the world of Gaelic games – are in some way a moveable feast, and secondly the public undermining of one of the association’s most important committees.

Next Monday’s fixtures meeting of the CCCC promises to be an intense affair.

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