GAA and Kildare on a collision course over match venue
Kildare insist Mayo game must be played in Newbridge and refuse to go to Croke Park
Cian O’Neill: Said his team “would be in St Conleth’s Park on Saturday night, we’re going to be togged out, we’re going to be ready to go, that’s our home venue, we earned it by winning our last two matches on the road . . .” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The GAA and Kildare have now reached a Mexican standoff on the decision to fix Saturday’s round three All-Ireland football qualifier against Mayo for Croke Park.
Despite the clear threat from Kildare officials and management that they will not be showing up at headquarters, the GAA are adamant they will not be budging on the venue. As of last night Kildare manager Cian O’Neill was insisting his team would be togged out at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge for 7.0pm on Saturday evening, the same time as the game is set for Croke Park.
Kildare were entitled to home advantage, having been drawn first from the bowl earlier on Monday morning, but a meeting of the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) later decided that the capacity at St Conleth’s was not suitable for “health and safety” reasons.
Kildare officials had already aired their discontent and have now indicated they are not willing to play the game anywhere other than at home in Newbridge.
“We are making it clear that we will not play this game in Croke Park,” said a Kildare statement. “St Conleth’s Park is perfectly capable of hosting the tie on an all-ticket basis, Newbridge is perfectly capable of dealing with the number of supporters that will attend.”
O’Neill, speaking to RTÉ News, last night added: “We were shocked when met with the decision. We were already for Newbridge and St Conleth’s Park on Saturday evening at 7 O’clock. We’re coming off the back of two challenging and tough journeys, up to Owenbeg in Derry, and thankfully we overcome that, and then to Pearse Park at the weekend.
“So to get a home venue for round three was a real positive thing for us, for the players in particular, and most importantly for the fans, in terms of the travel they’ve had to undergo the last number of weeks.
“So for that to be pulled from underneath your feet, for no apparent reason, no reason that I’m aware of that makes any logical sense, or certainly factored the players into the equation, which as I said is critically important, is just bewildering.”
O’Neill then added that he was being “explicitly clear here” and that his team “would be in St Conleth’s Park on Saturday night, we’re going to be togged out, we’re going to be ready to go, that’s our home venue, we earned it by winning our last two matches on the road, and that’s not going to be taken away from us.”
However, the GAA have stated they are no longer open to discussion on the matter, and the game will be played in Croke Park as double-header with the meeting of Cavan and Tyrone.
“The game has been fixed for 7pm in Croke Park, and that is not going to change under any circumstances”, Feargal McGill, the GAA’s director of games administration, told The Irish Times.
“We fully appreciate where Kildare are coming from. We don’t take home venue off of a team lightly. However, health and safety has to come first. It’s that simple. The last thing we wanted to do was take this out of Newbridge, but we simply had no choice. There is no room for manoeuvre, not when it comes to health and safety. If Kildare don’t show up in Croke Park on Saturday at 7.0pm the game will be awarded to Mayo.”
Cavan were also entitled to home venue, as the first drawn team, but with development work currently being carried out on Kingspan Breffni Park, they first nominated the alternative venue at Brewster Park in Enniskillen to play Tyrone.
So too were Kildare entitled to nominate an alternative venue, but refused to do so, and with that the CCCC decided on Croke Park; Cavan then agreed to play their game against Tyrone as a double-header at Croke Park.
According to Croke Park, and based on the most recent Slattery Report on venue capacities, St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge has a capacity of 9,020; if the game is deemed all-ticket, that capacity is further reduced by 10 per cent. The CCCC then gave Kildare the opportunity to nominate an alternative venue, such as Navan or Portlaoise, but that wasn’t forthcoming. An attendance of 18,000-20,000 is expected.
“There were discussions all morning on the matter, and it won’t be changing at this stage,” added McGill. “Given the capacity, this is all about health and safety, simple as that. The CCCC have a responsibility for fixing venues, and those venues are fixed subject any health and safety concerns or requirements. Had Kildare drawing anyone other than Mayo at home it is likely that Newbridge would have been acceptable as a venue.”