Saturday 25 November 2017

Hill 16 on tour still set for Wexford Park or Portlaoise

Jim Gavin’s first championship outing this year will be in Wexford Park or Portlaoise. Pic: Sportsfile
Jim Gavin’s first championship outing this year will be in Wexford Park or Portlaoise. Pic: Sportsfile

The Leinster Council has moved to quell rumours about the venue for Dublin's opening defence of their SFC title.

Leinster CEO Michael Reynolds has reiterated that Dublin's quarter-final on Saturday, June 3, will go ahead in either Innovate Wexford Park (if Wexford provide the opposition) or O'Moore Park, Portlaoise (if Carlow prevail in their May 21 opener).

Moreover, the fixture will not be switched to Kilkenny's Nowlan Park, which hosted last year's Leinter SFC opener against Laois - Dublin's first championship match outside of Croke Park in a decade.

That policy shift, taking Jim Gavin's team down the country for their opening game, has now been extended for a second year - but doubts about where they would play surfaced last week.

However, the Leinster Council has scotched a media report that the Wexford Park option was in peril. "Leinster Council have no issue," Reynolds declared. "If it happens, it's Wexford and Dublin in Wexford Park - and Carlow and Dublin in Portlaoise."

Likewise, if Wexford hurlers win their quarter-final against round-robin qualifiers, they will retain home advantage for their June 10 semi-final against Kilkenny.

Of the two games potentially earmarked for Wexford, the hurling clash is viewed as the most likely game to sell out.

According to Reynolds, the capacity of Wexford Park is currently set at between 18,500 and 20,000, subject to a curtain-raiser being played.

He also explained that there are approximately 5,000 seats in the covered stand although, for logistical reasons related to unreserved seating, you won't sell all 5,000. The number of covered seats has been touted as a reason for moving a potential Wexford/Dublin showdown, all because Dublin have 3,000 'GAA season' ticket holders entitled to one of these seats.

These season tickets are not to be confused with Parnell Park ticket holders. As Reynolds explained, fans who has purchased a GAA season ticket "have already paid for their first round Leinster match in that package."

He added: "It's true to say that up to 4,000 of the covered stand (in Wexford) is already spoken for, between sponsors, players, officials and the GAA season ticket holder. Then, of course, there's over 4,000 uncovered seats on the other side so, if it's a morning like this morning, they'll all want to be there anyway."

Meanwhile, the Leinster CEO dismissed the possibility that Dublin might end up playing a second SFC game outside of Croke Park. The Council has altered its previous policy of playing both football semi-finals as a double-header - the first semi-final has been pencilled in for Saturday, June 17, while the second game (potentially involving the Dubs) is on Sunday, June 25.

But according to Reynolds, the games have been separated on the request of Leinster counties to ensure that the losers of the first semi-final weren't left facing a six-day qualifier turnaround.

"We got away with it for a couple of years, the double-header, with one of the losers having to go out six days later. Counties raised it at Council last November, and we investigated the possibility," he explained.

"So the loser of the first semi-final (involving Louth, Wicklow or Meath versus Longford, Laois or Kildare) are the ones who will benefit by having a fortnight, and that's all that's to it."

That first semi-final, on June 17, will proceed at a provincial location whereas the June 25 venue will go ahead in Croker if Dublin are involved.

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