Donegal and Laois share stage in Leitrim as London are added to Croke Park bill

Two womens’ qualifiers re-arranged as Carrick-on-Shannon will host three games

Monaghan celebrate winning the Anglo-Celt Cup. The GAA president has expressed his worries over the recent spate of pitch invasions. Photograph: Inpho

Monaghan celebrate winning the Anglo-Celt Cup. The GAA president has expressed his worries over the recent spate of pitch invasions. Photograph: Inpho


GAA president Liam O’Neill has defused any apparent controversy surrounding the fixing of the Donegal-Laois All-Ireland football qualifier for Páirc Seán MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon this Saturday – even though two women’s All-Ireland football qualifiers were already pencilled in for the same venue on the same day.

The Leitrim ground will now host all three games, starting with the women’s double-header of Clare and Kildare and Donegal versus Westmeath, followed by meeting of the All-Ireland champions Donegal against Laois (5.0), the winners of which go on to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

“Some people jumped to conclusions,” said O’Neill. “But we’ve talked to the various parties, and gone with the triple header. It means a slight rescheduling for TG4’s women’s coverage, but the women’s games are not being moved, and we spent the day ensuring that wouldn’t happen. We facilitate women’s football in whatever way possible. We’ve done this in the past, and in fact we’re trying hard to bring women’s football and camogie under the same roof, anyway.”

Beaten Connacht finalists London were added to the Croke Park bill, playing Cavan in what will be their first championship game at GAA headquarters: “Coincidentally we have been working with London over the last few months behind the scenes. I suggested to them that I would love to see Ruislip revamped. We are ready to go with that, we approved funding for that at last Friday’s Management Committee meeting, and it involves a substantial investment. The total project will cost over £4m and will result in a ground that they can be proud of. The plans will be revealed when planning permission comes through, but we have given it the go-ahead.”

O’Neill had more serious words to say about both the latest sign of aggression shown to match referees, this time directed towards Joe McQuillan, in Newbridge, and also the re-emergence of the pitch invasion, seen in both Clones and Castlebar last Sunday.

“There will have to be a change in Newbridge because quite simply that can’t be allowed to happen again.

“As for pitch invasions any time we speak on this the media in general are not on our side, and the public are not on our side. But we have put safety first, because any time there’s a pitch invasion is like gambling; it’s like driving without a seatbelt. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. Make no mistake, if something ever happens, it’s on our door.

‘No mixed message’
“But it’s an education process. There’s no mixed message because we don’t tolerate pitch invasions, but when a horde descend on a pitch it’s very hard to stop them. I don’t like using words like ‘clamping’ down, but look at Hill 16, did we tolerate that? We took some steps, and very unpopular steps at the time, but people are coming around, and accepted it. So it’s a ground by ground thing.”

O’Neill was speaking at the launch of the 2013 Poc Fada, the final of which takes place on Saturday August 3rd, on the Cooley Mountains in Louth. Taking part will be Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins, who claimed yesterday he has given no great thought about whether or not he will continue for another season, beyond the fact he is sure manager Eamonn O’Shea is still the right man for the job.

“Guys will have a few months to reflect,” said Cummins. “I haven’t picked up a hurl since the Kilkenny game. I am going away on holidays on the 10th of August for ten days, I just want to see what life is like without hurling being there so then you can make a clear decision as to whether you want to stick around at home and raise the family or go off with Tipperary again. I have been on the road a while, but we’ll see at the end of the summer what ways things pan out.

“But you must also remember is there another generation of goalies that needs to come on line now and Tipperary maybe need to start afresh. So it’s not just about me. That’s something, when you get to my age, you get a bit mature and realise these things.”
Round Four Qualifiers (This Saturday - extra-time if necessary)
Meath v Tyrone, Croke Park, 7pm
Donegal v Laois, Carrick-on-Shannon, 5pm
Cork v Galway, Croke Park, 5pm
London v Cavan, Croke Park, 3pm.