GAA Football

Switch Kildare-Mayo to Portlaoise - and Dublin's 'home' is Parnell Park

Kildare were in Croke Park last year but they insist they won't go there to play Mayo this Saturday night.
Picture Seamus Loughran

Compromise rules? Not the hybrid game that the GAA loves, but the concept that if both sides in an argument give a little they can find a common ground.

And the common ground for Kildare-Mayo to meet this Saturday should be O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.

Part of me would admire the Lilywhites if they stuck to their manager Cian O’Neill’s words and only turn up to their own Newbridge home this weekend.

That would mean them losing the match but it would be a victory for principle. Many are understandably backing Kildare’s stance fully.

They certainly should not go to Croke Park, as they have been directed to do by, er, ‘Croke Park’, as the GAA is colloquially known.

Yet given that Kildare switched a third round qualifier against Limerick to Portlaoise six years ago in order to allow more of their own supporters to attend that match then it would be somewhat hypocritical of them to stick by their ‘Newbridge or nowhere’ stance.

The GAA is being accused, with some justification, of doing what it wants in regard to this fixture – but aren’t Kildare also acting according to what suits themselves?

You can’t argue that home advantage is a sacrosanct right if you give it up when you want to.

Six years ago Kildare didn’t insist on playing in their St Conleth’s Park home - because it suited them better to move the match to O’Moore Park.

Sure, Newbridge has been upgraded since 2012 - but not sufficiently. Apparently the capacity is just over 9,000 – the GAA says 8,500 - which simply isn’t good enough for a leading county, one that usually operates at Division Two level or higher.

There’s been plenty of money spent by Kildare GAA in recent times to the extent that, ahem, Croke Park bailed them out of the financial mess they’d got into by living beyond their means.

Perhaps it’s sensible that Kildare haven’t then spent a lot more money on Newbridge – but really they should have. Kildare is a wealthy, populous county, so there’s no good reason for them not to have a better main ground.

Plans have been submitted for an upgrade to 15,000 capacity by 2020, but in the here and now Newbridge isn’t big enough.

Season ticket-holders should obviously be accommodated when it comes to Championship games. It simply wouldn’t be right for loyal Mayo supporters to miss out on this match because Kildare haven’t got their own house in order.

Portlaoise is less than 30 miles from Newbridge, so Kildare fans shouldn’t quibble about such a short trip. Going to O’Moore Park would be much better than rattling around in a less than half-full Croke.

If Kildare truly believe that the current capacity of St Conleth’s Park is sufficient for this match then they should be allowed to sell/allocate that number of tickets to their own supporters.

And then Mayo supporters should be allowed to buy the same number, at least. With the game in Portlaoise.

Whatever happens, I repeat that Kildare should not go to Croke Park.

There is a strong sense that Kildare-Mayo has been set for that venue in order to facilitate Sky.

Making it the second part of a double-header with Cavan-Tyrone ensures that if the all-Ulster clash goes to extra time then Sky won’t have a repeat of the scheduling debacle that meant hurling fans missed much of the first half of Kilkenny-Wexford because Meath-Tyrone over-ran at another venue.

But there have to be better reasons for a county losing home advantage than the demands of broadcasters, whoever that may be.

Cavan aren’t currently able to host games at Kingspan Breffni Park due to re-laying of the pitch there, so they lost home advantage against Down (played at Brewster Park) and now against Tyrone. That’s absolutely right and fair.

There’s no need for Cavan-Tyrone to go to Croke Park either; Clones would easily suffice.

So Kildare shouldn’t have to go to Croke Park simply to make up the numbers in a double-header. But nor should the game definitely be in Newbridge.

I would defend to the end Kildare’s right to host this match if they were better hosts – and if they hadn’t put money first themselves when they gave up home advantage six years ago.

Super Eights: Venues

Venues are also up for debate concerning the Super Eights, but the problem there is surely more to do with scheduling.

Why must provincial champions wait until the third (and final) round of matches in order to enjoy home advantage?

Yes, that might be a vital game, so home advantage could be helpful – or it could be a ‘dead rubber’.

It doesn’t seem right that a team that comes through the qualifiers/ one of the losing provincial finalists will have a home match before a county that has actually won its provincial title. Perhaps it’s all part of the unwritten policy of downgrading the provincial competitions and pushing counties towards some different format.

Although, let’s be honest, if the provincial champions had their home games second, meaning that their last matches would be away, there’d be complaints that provincial champions didn’t have home advantage for such (potentially) crucial games.

Even so, the scheduling is more of an issue than the fact that Dublin will get two games in Croke Park.

The GAA is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t on that particular issue.

If the opening games of the Super Eights, between the provincial champions, weren’t in Croke Park but at neutral venues then there’d be complaints that Dublin were being given an advantage by being the only team to guaranteed to play in headquarters before the All-Ireland semi-finals.

The Leinster champions are entitled to play a game in Croke Park. Dublin shouldn’t be punished and deprived of that because Croke Park happens to be in their county.

The solution is to make Dublin play their ‘home’ game (the one against the team that comes through round four of the qualifiers) at their home ground – Parnell Park.

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