Antrim footballers and hurlers offered a Croke Park date
THE Antrim footballers are mulling over the GAA's offer of playing their All-Ireland Qualifier against Limerick at Croke Park on Saturday June 25 as part of a double-header with their county hurlers who face Meath in the delayed Christy Ring final.
Despite the opportunity of the Antrim hurlers and footballers getting a rare run-out at headquarters, the offer hasn’t been universally welcomed by the respective management teams.
It is understood the hurling management team would have preferred the Christy Ring final to go ahead tomorrow night in Newry, as originally scheduled, but Meath’s objection was successful with the Central Competitions Controls Committee [CCCC] and Saturday June 25 was decreed the new date.
Meanwhile, there is a train of thought among the senior footballers that the Saffrons shouldn’t give up home advantage for their All-Ireland showdown with Limerick, which could be hosted at Corrigan Park.
A potential club fixtures pile-up and player unavailability for the Christy Ring final are two reasons why the Antrim hurlers aren’t enamoured with pushing the replayed game back by a fortnight.
While acknowledging the joint problems of club fixture congestion and absent county players for the new Christy Ring final date, Antrim chairman Collie Donnelly insisted that a compromise had to be reached.
“There are lots of things that it affects,” said Donnelly.
“There were a round of club games cancelled last night (Wednesday) which gives us a problem as fixtures start to pile up. We have fixture plans in place and we’re getting closer to Championship time for clubs.
“But, at the end of the day, the game is on and people need to move on. That’s where we’re.”
Antrim are expected to be without several key players due to pre-arranged trips abroad, but Donnelly insisted: “The cup has to be played for and I know both teams will be missing a player or two but they’re carrying 27 or 28 players, so it might allow another player to stake his claim.”
Interim boss Dominic McKinley will also have to field a team for the Ulster SHC semi-final against Derry on Sunday June 19 and hope they win as the losers are scheduled to play a relegation play-off tie [a new aspect to the Ulster SHC series] the day after the Christy Ring final.
Last Saturday’s Christy Ring final between Antrim and Meath ended in a draw but a spectacular miscalculation by match official John O’Brien saw him award the cup to Meath by a point.
The Tipperary ref later acknowledged his error and the CCCC was left with no option but to replay the game.
“It was just an unfortunate course of events,” Donnelly said.
“The referee made a genuine mistake. It was unfortunate that the error wasn’t picked up when the game immediately finished. I think the GAA put their hands up and said: ‘Look, there was a mistake made, both teams scored the same, and we have to re-fix the match.’
“Meath were probably in a bad space themselves… There were player welfare issues and they felt Saturday [June 11] was just too close.
“It’s about trying to find a compromise. Let’s be honest, you have county boards and management teams who have all types of opinions.
“Everybody can talk but if we believe that we can play at a higher level Saturday June 25 is the time to do the talking. I know Meath will want to prove that their performance wasn’t a one-off.
“You have to look at the greater good of the competition, and it’ll be good that the competition gets another day out and hopefully we play the way we know we can play.”
Donnelly added that if promotion into the Leinster SHC series wasn’t linked to the Christy Ring, there would be no appetite for a replay.
It also looks increasingly likely the eventual winners of the delayed Ring final will play in next season’s Leinster round robin series and not the Leinster quarter-finals as was agreed at Congress earlier this year.