More trouble in Kildare... and it's got little to do with Seanie Johnston
The Kildare footballers are at the heart of yet another controversy and this time it’s got absolutely nothing to do with Seanie Johnston.
Having safely negotiated what could have been a tricky qualifier tie under the circumstances against Cavan on Sunday, Kildare were entered into yesterday’s draw for Round Three of the qualifiers and will have been happy enough to have been drawn out of the hat first, earning them a home draw against Limerick.
Except, they aren’t going to get a home draw and will instead have to face the Treaty County in the neutral setting of O’Moore Park in Portlaoise after the Central Competitions Control Committee decreed that St. Conleth’s Park in Newbridge isn’t big enough to handle the crowds expected for this weekend’s clash.
The CCCC are claiming that concerns over the crowd capacity is the sole reason for staging the game in Portlaoise, but there is a suggestion that it might be seen as a punishment of sorts for Kildare criticism of the way the GAA top brass handled the controversial Seanie Johnston transfer, with manager Kieran McGeeney saying at the weekend that “being sneaky and telling lies” was the way to get ahead in the GAA.
CCCC secretary Fergal Magill has rejected suggestions that there are any underhand motives for moving the game to Portlaoise, however. "We are aware this decision might be linked to other recent issues, but it certainly was not and it was not a decision we wanted to take, or took, lightly," he is quoted as saying in the Irish Independent.
Although Kildare are not the first county to have been affected in this manner, there is still considerable anger at the decision to deny Kildare home advantage. County chairman John McMahon said that Kildare folk were “disgusted” at the decision and couldn’t see how the GAA were justified in taking it in the first place.
"These draws are clearly done on a home-and-away basis,” he said.
“It was made live on the national airwaves and we were drawn first out of the hat and that gave us home advantage.
"For teams and supporters it's not about gate receipts or the size of gates, it is about your team getting through to the next round.
"Getting a home draw helps greatly with that, so it's hard to see how anyone can vindicate taking that advantage away from us."
It is difficult not to make an association with the Johnston saga and the decision to stage the game in Portlaoise, but the CCCC seem to have a point in this case.
St. Conleth’s Park is capable of hosting approximately 8,000 supporters, while there were up to 9,000 Kildare fans present at Breffni Park on Sunday, even though the presence of Johnston against his former county was always going to guarantee a sizeable crowd.
There would probably have been as many supporters intending on attending this weekend’s game and when you add Limerick supporters into the mix, the Newbridge venue would have been ill-equipped to deal with such a crowd.
"Even if we had made it all-ticket game at Newbridge, there was a fear that several thousands more could have turned up without tickets," Magill added.
The Kildare County Board were due to meet last night to discuss their options, but with little time to arrange an alternative venue before Saturday, it seems as if the game will go ahead in Portlaoise after all.