Second Opinion: Leinster Council not giving Galway fair crack of whip

Connacht county should be given full parity with other counties in Leinster hurling championship

Galway players line up ahead of this year’s Leinster SHC final against Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.

Galway’s arrival into the Leinster hurling championship in 2009 put an end to one of the more ridiculous anomalies in the GAA world. For years, hard as it is to even believe now, Galway had to go in cold against provincial winners from Munster or Leinster in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Someone entering a 13-team competition just one win away from the final was never what you would call equitable.

When “the back door” was introduced, Galway were afforded their second chance in rather ham-fisted fashion in the qualifiers, before the obvious solution was agreed upon – that Galway would join the Leinster hurling championship.

Open arms

Galway have since won the Bob O’Keeffe Cup once (in 2012) but to say that they have been welcomed with open arms would be wide of the mark. Once again this week, the Leinster Council have ruled out the chance of Galway playing a home game in their own provincial championship.


"That came up again this year and it was voiced at Leinster Council meeting," Leinster GAA chairman, John Horan, told this week. "There is no change within the body of Leinster Council and Galway have met the officers, they've met the management committee and they've come and met the full council."

This is outrageous, and it again reflects poorly on the Leinster Council’s ability to give their teams a fair crack of the whip, as their ongoing refusal to give one of their teams a home game against the Dublin footballers for the last 10 years or more also indicates. Galway are either in the Leinster championship, or they’re not. But Horan continues . . . “I think if Galway had Ballinasloe in shape. I think part of it is going as far as Salthill is partially the problem, it’s just the distance. You are going nearly the width of Galway to it. We have discussed that every year and there is no change.”

Now where to start with this? Maybe the geography lesson first. Galway are not looking to play their Leinster championship games in Clifden, Cleggan, Ballyconneely or indeed Inishbofin, so it’s safe to assume you’re not traversing the width of the county.

And while the suggestion of Ballinasloe is a brave one, taking you as it would a full 600 metres inside the county lines, the idea coming from one of the 15 or 20 most powerful people in the GAA that Galway should look into developing a fourth ground in the county (after Pearse Stadium, Athenry and Tuam), and developing it to the extent that it could host intercounty championship matches, for the convenience of counties that Galway travel to play games against every year, is pretty unbelievable.

It’s much easier to suggest that Galway spend millions building a top-class stadium in Ballinasloe, or to give Galway €20,000 every year as a sop to offset the lack of a home championship game (as the Leinster Council currently do), than it is to say that this is their idea of fairness and Galway should be damn glad to be where they are.

Galway GAA CEO John Hynes said earlier this month that in Galway's eight years in Leinster, games involving them have generated €3.47 million, yet Galway have only received €130,000 in return.

Earlier this year there was a Leinster hurling championship game played in Austin Stack Park in Tralee. Last year there was a game played in Ballycastle, Co Antrim. But Salthill is a bridge too far?

And Galway’s underage teams continue to suffer. The under-21 and minor teams still enter the All-Ireland series without a provincial championship match. “In terms of their minors coming in, the same thing, no change,” says Horan. “They have won more minor All-Irelands than the rest of Leinster put together since 1989. So, no, I don’t see a change in mood there at all.”

This answer might be the most illuminating of all. Galway have had success at this grade, so why would they want to change? And why would we want a good team like that coming in and winning our competition?

Galway want to be included in the Leinster minor and under-21 championships because they see no future in isolationism. They just want to take part in a competition which is fairly put together.

Severely reduced

The Connacht Council got criticised in some quarters last year for fixing the Connacht senior football final between Mayo and Sligo for

Dr Hyde

Park, in Roscommon. The Hyde’s capacity had been severely reduced, but they felt for the integrity of the competition it was best to host it there, despite the fact that a much bigger crowd could have been accommodated in Castlebar.

The integrity of the competition – not money, not convenience for the majority – was the over-riding factor in making that call. The Leinster Council could learn from that.