Kildare dig in on home advantage
KILDARE GAA chiefs remain adamant that all of their home games in the upcoming Allianz Football League should be played in Newbridge.
But that decision won't ultimately rest with them but with the powers-that-be in Croke Park, as doubts persist over the ability of an ageing St Conleth's Park in Newbridge to host such high-profile opponents as Donegal and Dublin next spring.
According to Kildare chairman John McMahon, their county grounds had its capacity previously reduced to approximately 6,200 because of health and safety requirements but they are actively looking to increase this figure.
"As far as we're concerned, we will be playing our home games in St Conleth's Park in Newbridge -- that is the position we're looking for," McMahon declared.
"There is nothing soft in any division but especially in Division One. We are the new kids on the block, so we will need any advantage we can get to maintain our status in Division One," he added.
The Kildare chairman said they've held discussions involving the National Infrastructure Committee in Croke Park. "We met with the health and safety people on that. We made a proposal to increase the numbers in St Conleth's Park, and we're waiting on a result back on that proposal," he outlined.
When quizzed about any new capacity target, McMahon said: "That has to be agreed. We would be hoping to have it increased on the approximate 6,200 (capacity previously set) ... we're expecting word back imminently from Croke Park."
All final decisions on match venues rest with the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC), but obviously the matter needs to be clarified in the next few weeks -- especially as it could have ramifications for Dublin plans to stage the third instalment of its 'Spring Series'.
Kildare have already been forced to concede 'home' advantage for last summer's SFC qualifier against Limerick, which was switched to neutral Portlaoise.
At the time, media reports suggested Newbridge's capacity could have been brought up to 8,000 but the decision to move the game to O'Moore Park was subsequently justified, on crowd numbers at least, by an attendance of 11,345.
For the upcoming league, the newly promoted Lilywhites are due to host All-Ireland champions Donegal on Sunday, February 3; Kerry on Sunday, March 3; Dublin a week later on March 10; and Tyrone on March 24.
With Dublin launching their Spring Series with a Saturday night opener against Cork on February 2, there has been inevitable debate about the option of Kildare/Donegal being moved to facilitate a Croke Park double-header. Likewise, questions have been raised about a possible relocation for the crowd-pulling Kildare/Dublin clash. As of now, however, Kildare are sticking firmly to the line that all their home fixtures should remain that way.
Meanwhile, following Tegral's recent decision to end its long-running sponsorship of Kildare GAA, the search for a new financial backer is still ongoing. But McMahon sounded an upbeat note when he revealed: "We are in negotiations with a couple of (potential) sponsors -- things are looking positive."