Sunday 17 December 2017

Dubs get a Friday feeling!

Kildare tee up a Croker night game

DUBLIN footballers' would-be away clash with Kildare next March is heading for Croker - and it might even be played on a Friday night.

In a potentially groundbreaking development for the GAA, Dublin chiefs have floated the idea that their much-debated Allianz League showdown with the Lilywhites would be an ideal fit for Friday night football.

As reported in yesterday's Evening Herald, two of Kildare's four 'home' fixtures in Division One - against All-Ireland champions Donegal in early February and Dublin on the second weekend in March - look set to be switched from Newbridge to Croke Park.

While the move has yet to be officially confirmed by the Central Competitions Control Committee, it's known there have been intensive negotiations behind the scenes to bring Kildare's two biggest crowding-pulling games to the capital.

These would be incorporated into Dublin's 'Spring Series', with Kildare/ Donegal staged as a curtain-raiser to Dublin/Cork on Saturday, February 2 and Dublin/Kildare played as a standalone game.

The latter was originally pencilled in for St Conleth's Park on Sunday, March 10. Now that it's seemingly heading for HQ, the initial presumption was that it would be switched to the previous Saturday night.

However, the Ireland rugby team will host France in the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium that evening (kick-off 5pm), and this potential clash has prompted suggestions that the Dublin/ Kildare tie could be brought forward to March 8.

"There is a possibility of a Friday night for that game," Dublin chairman Andy Kettle told the Herald. "There has been a lot of talk about Friday night matches, and the line from Croke Park so far has been "two neighbouring counties - you can't get more neighbouring than Dublin and Kildare".

According to Kettle, it wouldn't make "marketing sense" to organise a Spring Series game in direct competition with a high-profile Irish rugby international. The staging of two big sports events on the same evening could also cause "problems with Garda manning" in the city, he suggested.


"Even apart from the potential clash of the rugby, it gives an ideal opportunity to test out the market for Friday night matches. Again, Friday night would have to be a single game (not a double-header) because you wouldn't be starting until around 7pm, giving people a chance to finish work."

The Friday night option will remain in the realms of speculation, however, until an agreement is finalised on bringing Kildare's two aforementioned 'home' games out of the county.

According to this week's Leinster Leader, these negotiations have been led by Croke Park (not the Dublin county board) and an offer "too good to turn down" - in the region of €60,000 to €70,000 - has been tabled.

This would allow Kildare GAA to upgrade their Newbridge home to the required health and safety regulations and also increase capacity to between 8,500 and 9,000.

Contacted last night, Kildare chairman John McMahon said there was still no official update on the negotiations and declined to go into monetary details.

"We were looking for our home matches to be played in Croke Park, so it's all part and parcel of the package that has to be agreed, negotiated, whatever term you want," he added.

When asked for his opinion on a Friday night clash with the Dubs, McMahon replied: "We haven't even been canvassed on that yet, so I cannot give a comment on something we haven't even discussed."


The bigger picture, of course, is that Dublin plans to stage a third Spring Series have been effectively rescued by adding two Kildare games to the schedule. "There was always a doubt," Kettle admitted.

"If I was John McMahon in Kildare, I would be fighting my corner. From his point of view, he was doing exactly what he should be doing for his county. I know that's being selfish but that's the way you have to be. What is being talked about is probably 90 per cent of what we wanted. We would have liked the Kildare/Kerry game to be part of it too.

"That match, plus ourselves versus Down, would have made for another big day and a big crowd."

Following this week's apparent breakthrough, Dublin haven't ruled out the prospect of playing all five 'home' games in Croke Park, although a decision still has to be made on whether the ties against Mayo (Saturday, March 2) and Down (Sunday, March 24) should go ahead there or in Parnell Park.

"I wouldn't have any worries about our capabilities to do five events (in Croke Park) as long as they are promoted and priced properly," said Kettle.

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