Seán Moran: World outside can’t stop the Gael at play
Galway-Kerry game goes head-to-head with World Cup final but such clashes usually avoided
Kerry’s Sean O’Shea and Stephen O’Brien celebrate after the Munster final victory over Cork. Their next outing is against Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Without undue fanfare we’ve reached the halfway point of the most radically altered championship in at least 17 years.
Ironically, considering the fears that hurling would be overshadowed by football and its new round-robin All-Ireland quarter-final format, if anything the season to date has proved an inversion of such concerns.
The reality of the games is that football has a more widespread competitiveness but hurling’s organisation on a graded or tiered basis gives it considerable advantages early in the season.
It has been pointed out that the provinces are in a reasonably good, competitive fettle at the moment and that helped to fire interest in the new format but it is equally true that being able to play matches at home venues also contributed to the competitiveness in both Munster and Leinster.
The result has been that hurling has dominated media attention for the first half of the championship.
Last weekend’s draw between Galway and Kilkenny, ensures that this will continue for another, unscheduled, week.
Reactions to the Leinster replay moving to Thurles were quite muted, as neither county was too bothered by the switch in venue. Attempts to whip up controversy have been half-hearted. It’s second nature to hurling counties to play at Semple Stadium and these days with a county from Connacht playing opposition from south Leinster, where better to have it than Tipperary?
The venue was used previously by Leinster to stage hurling semi-finals in 2002 when the Hogan Stand was being rebuilt.
GAA president John Horan on Morning Ireland for the football qualifiers’ draw appeared however to be anticipating some problems.
“ . . . something I want to change that the months of July and August will have no non-GAA, hurling or football, events taking place in Croke Park, ” he told RTÉ Radio 1. “Going forward, I’d like to see that change.”
Mind you, the accumulated rentals of U2, Coldplay, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran (by two) during that period would have paid for a few GPOs
It’s probably unwise to reach for the fire extinguisher before any flames have ignited and his stated mission to rid Croke Park of concerts during July and August could be premature.
As one senior official lamented to a colleague, ‘what’s wrong with making money?’ before detailing the pressures from GAA units – all entirely legitimately – looking for grants and financial assistance.
Given the global tour arrangements of stadium acts, it could be tricky to shut Croke Park down for two of three most suitable months for outdoor concerts but it’s likely the president was aware that there have never been concerts in August anyway, given the busy schedules at that time of the year and it’s only in the past three years that July has been used.
Mind you, the accumulated rentals of U2, Coldplay, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran (by two) during that period would have paid for a few GPOs and it remains to be seen if the president’s ambitions in this respect can be fulfilled.
Focus now moves from the unavailability of Croke Park for a Galway match to its use the weekend after next for another fixture involving the county, specifically for the phase one round-robin encounter with Kerry – the so-called ‘Croke Park round’.
The throw-in time is listed for 4.0, the same time as the World Cup final. It’s an unusual dilemma, as in the past, soccer’s biggest event has started in the evening with the exception of 16 years ago when because of the time difference with Japan, Brazil-Germany kicked off in the morning, Irish time.
It has however been coming down the tracks for the past few months, as the GAA took a decision not to try and avoid a clash given the difficulties that would cause the counties concerned, whether that would be the other Group One counties, yet to be determined, having to arrive for a midday throw-in or Galway and Kerry having to start in the evening given the distances involved.
There were just 17,436 spectators in Croke Park on 17th June for the Leinster hurling semi-finals, which clashed with the Ireland-Egypt match at Italia 90
The GAA has in the past switched fixtures around to avoid clashes with Ireland’s involvement in major international sports events. This would have been influenced by the experience of going gung-ho up against big tournament matches in which the soccer team was playing.
There were just 17,436 spectators in Croke Park on 17th June for the Leinster hurling semi-finals, which clashed with the Ireland-Egypt match at Italia 90. From then on, care was taken not to allow such conflicts although 12 years later, Derry and Donegal met in Clones during Ireland’s World Cup second round fixture against Spain.
As far back as 15 years ago, a programme of National League fixtures was moved from Sunday to Saturday because of the rugby team’s Grand Slam decider against England.
Two years ago during Euro 16, the Leinster championship double bill of Kildare-Westmeath and Dublin-Meath was brought back to a 4.15 and 6.35 to accommodate the Ireland-France second-round match.
The feeling this time around was that without direct Irish interest, there wasn’t the same imperative to switch.
Ominously though it was a big football match also between Galway and Kerry in 2006 that generated the lowest crowd to watch a league final after throw-in in Limerick was delayed until teatime so as not to have the Leinster-Munster European Rugby Cup semi-final running simultaneously.