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'Stick to the rules you created and stick to the draw that was made'

Cian O’Neill is defiant in his stance that his side will only play Mayo this Saturday if the game is at St Conleth’s Park.

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill.
Kildare manager Cian O'Neill.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

KILDARE MANAGER CIAN O’Neill has told the GAA to stick to its own rules and reverse the contentious decision to move Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier to Croke Park, as support for the Lilywhites continues to swell.

Kildare remain defiant in their stance that they will not relinquish home advantage for this weekend’s round three clash against Mayo, after the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) decided it will be played at HQ as part of a double-header with the Cavan-Tyrone clash.

The reason for the GAA’s decision is due to ‘healthy and safety’ concerns over the capacity of St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, but in a lengthy statement issued this evening, Kildare GAA insists the venue is capable of hosting the game.

After overcoming Longford in round two on Saturday, Kildare were rewarded with a home tie against Mayo — last year’s All-Ireland finalists — in this morning’s draw, which was made live on RTÉ Radio 1 in the presence of GAA president John Horan.

But that advantage has been taken away from O’Neill’s side by GAA bosses with the relocating of the game to Croke Park causing widespread consternation, including calls from the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) for the game to be reinstated to its original venue.

“We were all ready for Newbridge at St Conleth’s Park for Saturday evening at 7 o’clock,” O’Neill told RTÉ News.

“We’re coming off the back of two tough journeys, up to Owenbeg in Derry then in Pearse Park in Longford at the weekend.

“To get a home qualifier for round three was a real positive for us, for the players in particular and most importantly for the fans, in terms of the travel they’ve had to undergo the last number of weeks.

“For that to be pulled from underneath your feet for no apparent reason, no reason I’m aware of that makes any logical sense, is bewildering.”

A view of St. Conleth's Park ahead of the game St Conleth's Park has a capacity of 8,500. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Kildare manager added: “The draw is the draw, the fixture is the fixture, we were drawn out first and let’s be fair about this and let’s not bring other issues that have nothing got to do with the game of football.

“Stick to the rules you created and stick to the draw that was made in the presence of the president of the GAA this morning, stick to those rules and let’s go and play football. There’s too much talk about this, let’s just get on the pitch on Saturday, at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge at seven o’clock.

“We’ll be in St Conleth’s Park, togged out, ready to go.”

Meanwhile, the GPA statement said changing the rules in regard to match venues at the last minute is ‘not fair or reasonable’ for the two teams involved.

“It is unclear why the GAA is not sticking to its original decision* that the first team drawn would have home advantage,” it read. “The GAA decision to move this game from its original venue of St Conleth’s Park to Croke Park is unacceptable.

“Not alone is it unfair to the Kildare team but it is also unfair on the Mayo football panel who are now expected to make alternative travel arrangements having understood that the game was fixed for Newbridge.

“Changing the rules with regard to match venues at the 11th hour without any regard to the players affected is not fair or reasonable. Players deserve better and the GAA should respect their own rules in this regard.”

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