Friday 15 February 2019

'Bridge or bust - Lilywhites outraged by home venue loss

Kildare refuse to play Mayo in Croker as fixture crisis rages

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kildare's refusal to play Mayo in Croke Park this Saturday has created the potential for one of the GAA's biggest fixture crises in years.

County board chiefs insist that, having earned home advantage in yesterday's draw, their SFC qualifier must go ahead in Newbridge - or nowhere.

And, in that, they are "on the same page" as Lilywhite boss Cian O'Neill, who described the CCCC's decision to fix the game for Croker as "bewildering".

But Kildare's insistence that they won't fulfil the fixture unless it reverts to St Conleth's Park places them on a direct collision course with GAA top-brass.

Croke Park has made it clear there won't be any U-turn on moving the game from Newbridge on health and safety grounds - because of the venue's 9,020 capacity and the expectation that up to 20,000 fans would want to attend this eagerly awaited round three qualifier.

But if Kildare don't show at HQ next Saturday at 7pm, they risk expulsion.

"We'll be in St Conleth's Park," O'Neill promised. "That's our home venue, we earned it by winning the last two matches on the road, and that's not going to be taken away from us."

In a televised RTÉ interview yesterday evening, Kildare boss O'Neill was every bit as emphatic as his own county board, which released a strongly worded statement on the controversy.

The Kildare manager said he felt "sorry for Mayo in this whole debacle as well" and urged the GAA to "stick to the rules that you created. Stick to the draw that was made in the presence of the president of the GAA, John Horan, this morning. Stick to those rules and let's go and play football."

Meanwhile, a statement from Kildare GAA's management committee outlined their perspective on yesterday's sequence of events, which saw the CCCC fix a double-header for Croke Park - Cavan/Tyrone at 5pm followed by Kildare/Mayo at 7pm.

They stated that approval was received by Newbridge Gardaí for the game to go ahead as long as it took place at 7pm, with the Irish Derby taking place at Curragh Racecourse at 5.15pm.

They said St Conleth's Park has an approved capacity of 9,020 according to the Slattery Report and this would be adhered to, with the game all-ticket. Kildare GAA claim they were requested by the CCCC to provide an alternative venue but declined to do so, insisting the game go ahead in Newbridge.

Kildare have also expressed concern about what this might mean for the 'Super 8s' and the guaranteed home tie promised to all qualifiers.

The GPA has weighed into the row, urging the GAA to reverse what it deemed an "unacceptable" decision. "Players deserve better and the GAA should respect their own rules," a statement added.

SFC QUALIFIERS RD 3, SATURDAY: Leitrim v Monaghan, Carrick-on-Shannon 2.30; Armagh v Clare, Athletic Grounds 3.0; Cavan v Tyrone, 5.0, Kildare v Mayo, 7.0, both Croke Park (live on Sky Sports).

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