GAA Football

Sean Rooney: Dual commitments make late Down v Mayo throw-in time essential

Down Chairperson Sean Rooney says "it's impossible to be in two places at once", citing his county's involvement in both codes on Saturday
Diarmuid Pepper

DOWN County Board yesterday reacted firmly to Mayo concerns over the timing of next weekend’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier in Newry.

The counties are set to battle it out at Páirc Esler at 7pm next Saturday, but the Mayo County Board had asked for the game to be played at 3pm in order that their fans and players could return home at a reasonable hour. 

“We want to put on record our disappointment over this decision,” said Mayo PRO, Paul Cunnane.

“A lot of our fans will be facing a four to five-hour journey home. They won’t be getting into their cars until 9pm, and that’s only if the game doesn’t go to extra-time, so they won’t be back home until one or two o’clock in the morning.

“It will be later for the players – they’ll have to have a bite to eat and a cooldown after the match so they won’t be getting on the bus until ten, half ten at night.”

The PSNI asked for the game to be played at 7pm due to concerns over traffic congestion in Newry, but Cunnane took umbrage with this.

“One of the reasons given was that the PSNI requested a later start,” said Cunnane.

“But the game could have gone ahead at 3pm on Saturday in Castlebar no problem.

“Donegal-Tyrone was in Cavan last Saturday at 5pm. Both are busy towns so what’s the difference?”

Down GAA chairperson Sean Rooney was asked about Mayo’s “disappointment” by The Irish News.

“The CCC (Competitions Control Committee) in Croke Park made the fixtures; that’s the way it is,” he said.

Rooney also knocked back claims that the game could have been played in Castlebar.

“Our senior hurlers are playing in Croke Park in the final of the Christy Ring at 2pm; it’s impossible to be in two places at once, for our senior officers or anyone else.

“It was never fixed for Castlebar so the Castlebar question shouldn’t come into it at all.”

Connacht Council secretary John Prenty is a member of the CCCC and he defended the decision in an interview with the Mayo News.

“We sat down yesterday as the CCCC and looked at all the permutations,” said Prenty yesterday.

“Sligo and Armagh are both in the football Qualifiers and they are also playing each other in the Nicky Rackard Cup final on the same day. Down are also competing in the Christy Ring Cup final.

“Normally the Christy Ring final would be at a later time, but we decided to put that for 2pm so that their supporters will make it to Newry and likewise with the Nicky Rackard final, and that’s basically the reason [why the game is fixed for 7pm].”

Prenty also revealed that even if there wasn’t a fixture clash, the PSNI would still have called for a later throw-in time for the game.

“If there was no involvement from Down in the hurling, it still wouldn’t have been on at 5pm or 6pm because of the PSNI,” he said.

“Newry on a Saturday evening is a very busy place and the PSNI would not want a match at the earlier time because they want the shoppers to be gone before the influx of supporters starting to arrive.”

Prenty also ruled out the possibility of the game being played on Sunday, June 23 due to the Ulster football final in Clones, as well as Down’s U20 side taking on Antrim in the curtain-raiser that day.

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