Hot tickets the only topic as Newbridge gears up for big clash

Mayo supporters expected to outnumber Kildare in St Conleth’s Park clash

Cian O’Neill: the Kildare manager led his county’s campaign for the game to be played in Newbridge. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

With the possible exception of ice cube bags and water supply there is no greater shortage in the country this weather than tickets for Saturday evening's Round Three All-Ireland SFC qualifier at St Conleth's Park in Newbridge. At least among Kildare and Mayo supporters.

After ending their midweek stand-off and reaching an agreement to move the game out of Croke Park and back to St Conleth's Park, both the GAA and the Kildare County Board have advised supporters from both counties not to come near Newbridge unless they have one of the hot tickets; for those that do the advice is to remember the maximum strength sunscreen and sliced up watermelon. And of course the shades.

The 7pm throw-in leaves plenty of time for the arrival of home and travelling support, but there will be strict traffic management around the various access points to Newbridge: presumably the pitch is suitably watered too before any hosepipe ban.

When pitted against each other on Monday morning, Kildare first drawn and therefore entitled to home advantage, the GAA originally fixed the game for Croke Park on the advice the official capacity at St Conleth’s Park of 9,020 (reduced by 10 per cent to 8,200 when deemed all-ticket) was unsuitable.

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So the stand-off began, Kildare manager Cian O’Neill insisting it was “Newbridge or nowhere,” while the GAA insisted it was “Croke Park or nowhere”. For 48 hours there was no backing down.

Then on Wednesday morning the GAA agreed to the extra assurances from the Kildare County Board and An Garda Síochána that upgraded traffic management plans and stewarding would be put in place, and approved the Newbridge venue on an all-ticket basis. All season ticket holders would be accommodated, with Mayo having approximately 3,000, and Kildare approximately 1,000.

Facilitate concessions

That means Kildare supporters will still be outnumbered at least two-to-one, and closer to three-to-one among the season ticket-holders.

The Kildare County Board acknowledge the ticket shortage, but stated it was still better than surrendering home advantage.

We fully accept that the decision to play in St Conleth’s Park will impact significantly on the number of tickets that are available for Kildare supporters and that it will not be possible to facilitate concessions at the game. We would ask people who do not have a ticket for the match on Saturday not to turn up in Newbridge.”

The GAA also reiterated that stance: "We would be urging anyone without a ticket not to come into Newbridge on Saturday evening, because there won't be any tickets on sale at the venue, and you won't be able to get into the ground without one," said the GAA's director of communications, Alan Milton, "

The game also goes out live on Sky Sports, the restoration of home advantage also gently improving Kildare’s odds – from 11/4 to 5/2, though Mayo are still fancied to progress into round four, having beaten Limerick and then Tipperary by a combined score of 6-38.

Kildare ended their nine-game losing streak, including a first championships loss to Carlow since 1953, with a victories over Derry and Longford. Home advantage at least is now on their side.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics