Liam O’Neill and Tomás Ó Sé: The contrasting opinions of the life-long GAA administrator, entering his final year as president; and the legendary footballer, in his first year of retirement. It neatly exemplifies the widening gulf in perspective between those who shape policy and the grassroots who do not.
O’Neill sees no problem with the All-Ireland semi-final replay between Mayo and Kerry being switched to Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds, because Croke Park has prioritised a possible Dublin and Donegal replay along with Saturday’s American football match.
He claims the dissenters are a “small minority”, but a growing number of players and the Mayo County Board have objected to a game of this magnitude being moved out of headquarters.
“I just think it’s bad timing,” said Ó Sé at yesterday’s Comórtas na nGael promotion of the Irish language at Croke Park. “I think it’s brilliant that American Football can come here. It’s brilliant that soccer and rugby were here but I mean it’s a GAA field and it’s our field. There are players that love coming to Croke Park and playing and I just think I was bad planning to put an American football game in our busiest window of the year.
“It’s wrong. I’ve been told it was in place for a year and a half. It is great that we show off our stadium, that we can gain revenue – if the revenue goes back into the GAA – but I think that it’s wrong. I think it should be put to Saturday week.”
Need a replay
The CCC decided if Dublin and Donegal need a replay it will take place on Saturday week, with the hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary the next day.
“I think basing the decision on the fact that there could possibly be a draw between Donegal and Dublin is wrong,” Ó Sé continued. “I think they should move both games. Sure what about it if the two games are on, on the same day, it’s not about money, it’s not about Dublin filling up the stadium.
Despite such objections, O’Neill was adamant yesterday that the replay will stay in Limerick at 5pm this Saturday.
“The history of it is that people initially question, then they accept the decision and get on with it,” said O’Neill. “I’m sure that Mayo are long enough in the game at this level to know that it’s in their best interests to get on with it and play the game and qualify for the final and hopefully, for them, end their barren spell.”
Semple Stadium in Thurles was suggested as a more suitable venue, particularly for access to the ground.
“This is the business of the CCC,” O’Neill continued. “Tony O’Keeffe is chairperson of that. They have their committee there. The four provincial secretaries are on it. We have a rep from each province, covering the provinces, and they fix that.
“In their wisdom, they said Limerick was the place for this.”
There is also the familiarity factor, or in Mayo’s case the lack thereof, with the Gaelic Grounds but O’Neill dismissed this out of hand.
"I really don't know about that. There was a comment made about going 'deep into Munster territory'. We're not talking about the days of Brian Boru and Mayo went into someone's territory and you're in danger of being attacked. We're talking about a modern society here where we go on motorways and we travel the country."
Ó Sé had had the final word: I never enjoyed playing games in Limerick and it’s no disrespect to Limerick. I don’t know what it is. Some fields aren’t football fields in my eyes. I didn’t enjoy playing in Tralee either. I love Killarney. I love Páirc Uí Chaoimh and I love this place here.”
This place here was Croke Park, where Penn State and UCF banners were erected.