O'Byrne Cup final goes ahead but with some reluctance

Meath and Westmeath have concerns over O’Moore Park for Sunday’s decider

Meath are concerned whether Portlaoise will be able to handle two matches on the same day, in quick succession. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Meath are concerned whether Portlaoise will be able to handle two matches on the same day, in quick succession. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

So, with more than a little reluctance it seems the Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup final will go ahead on Sunday at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise (4.0).

Both Meath and Westmeath had been suggesting a change of venue more suitable to both teams but also the time of year. Sunday’s game will be preceded by the All-Ireland club IFC semi-final between An Ghaeltacht and Moy (2.0), hardly ideal given the further wintry conditions forecast for this weekend.

Meath were willing to play the game at Westmeath’s home ground at Cusack Park in Mullingar, although that request was turned down by the Leinster Council, partly due to the lack of floodlighting. Meath’s home ground at Páirc Tailteann was also ruled out as it was already down to stage the All-Ireland club JHC semi-final between Ardmore (Waterford) and Setanta (Donegal).

“Our main concern is the weather, and whether Portlaoise will be able to handle two matches on the same day, in quick succession,” said Meath county press officer Ciarán Flynn. “Obviously TV played a role here too, as TG4 have their cameras in Portlaoise for the intermediate game. But we don’t see why they couldn’t have explored other options, Abbotstown on the Saturday night for example, which would have been ideal for a game like this.” 

As it stands, and again weather permitting, TG4 are broadcasting both games live – starting with An Ghaeltacht against Moy, which may require extra-time, if necessary. However agreement was reached between TG4 and Leinster at the start of the month and the Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup final venue was announced on January 4th. 

Deferred

It’s the third of the so-called pre-season competitions to cause some stir. Ulster’s Dr McKenna Cup final has already been deferred until the mid-February break of the Allianz Football League, following the postponement of the competition’s second semi-final on Wednesday. 

Donegal and Armagh were scheduled to meet at Ballybofey, to decide who would play Tyrone in the final, only that pitch was deemed unplayable. It was confirmed yesterday the game has been switched to this Saturday evening at the same venue (6.0). That was the original date and time for the final, which will now be played on the weekend of February 17th/18th. 

Part of the issue with that date, however, is that the Sigerson Cup finals are also scheduled for that weekend, the first of only two free weekends in the Allianz Football League. 

The Connacht Council has already insisted their FBD league final will also go ahead on that same weekend in February – Galway and Roscommon meet at Tuam Stadium on Sunday, even if both teams have already qualified for the final. 

John Prenty, CEO of the Connacht Council, said: “You have to respect the integrity of the competition, can’t be moving the goalposts mid-season.” 

Galway forward Damien Comer was among those hopeful that “common sense might prevail”, and the Connacht Council would double up Sunday’s game, play it as a final. Roscommon were also looking to get the final shelved.

The last weekend in January, unlike recent years, has both the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues beginning at the same time: it means 33 league games will be played on the opening weekend, across football and hurling, on the Saturday and Sunday. 

The first round of the Sigerson Cup, by the way, also begins next week, as does the second round of the Fitzgibbon Cup.

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