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Louth's venue for potential Leinster quarter-final against Dublin confirmed

Wexford get home advantage if they progress, but Louth would have to face the Dubs in Portlaoise.

DUBLIN WILL BEGIN the defence of their Leinster SFC title in either Wexford or Portlaoise next summer, depending on who progresses from the preliminary round.

The Dublin team huddle The Dublin team huddle before their 2017 clash against Carlow in Portlaoise. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If Wexford defeat Louth, Wexford Park will host the last eight clash against Jim Gavin’s side. In the event of a Louth victory, the quarter-final will take place in Portaloise venue O’Moore Park, Leinster Council chairman Jim Bolger confirmed yesterday.

“Aside from Croke Park, we have Nowlan Park, Portlaoise, Tullamore and Wexford Park identified as the four venues that could hold expected fan numbers (from Dublin),” Bolger said at the AIB Leinster GAA Club Hurling Finals launch. “That has worked well for us.

If it is Wexford, it will be Wexford Park. If it is Louth, it will be in Portlaoise. We sat down and decided this before the draw, the four venues we named for Dublin – Portlaoise, Wexford Park, Nowlan Park, Tullamore. Delegates from Louth knew that. 

“We do take a financial hit, the numbers are smaller when we take Dublin out of Croke Park. But we do it for promotional aspect. And we are mindful of sponsors and giving boost to a provincial town or venue which hasn’t had a big game for years.

“But we liase with the Gardai and business people of the towns and it is good to get a few busloads into a provincial town and soak up the atmosphere.” 

A young Dublin fan cheers on his side A young Dublin fan cheers on his side. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Bolger also confirmed Offaly’s O’Bryne Cup tie with Kildare has been put back for two weeks. 

It alleviated a farcical situation where Kildare were set to begin their O’Bryne Cup campaign season on the day their winter training ban ends.

“It has been (deferred), it has. We got an agreement there on that so I’m glad that that has happened. You can see what can get lost, and that happens on occasion. That’s very unfair if you’re just back the day before and you have a match.

He continued: “You can run into injury issues and all that sort of stuff if you haven’t kicked a ball in a while. Not too bad if you’re involved in club stuff but most players need a bit of rest and recovery and a bit of downtime as well.”

The cries for the GAA to scrap its inter-county pre-season competitions have grown louder over the years. When speaking to The42 about the possibility of a second-tier championship coming into football, Seamus Carroll said the “McGrath Cup and O’Byrne Cup” don’t “serve any purpose.”

But Bolger rejected that idea: “Number one – those cups are very important to us as a province. A lot has fed into our decision about this. If we look back on the amount of challenge games there were last year, through December, we factored that in. It saves people travelling the length and breadth of the country for challenges.

“This year, we had our O’Byrne Cup final in May, close to the championship, thought it might have suited both teams but it could also have an adverse effect if you didn’t perform well.

Jim Bolger Leinster GAA chairman Jim Bolger. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We were keen to give counties a smooth run-In to the league starting off. We didn’t have space to have final in January, even though we had it in late December. We discussed it and counties were okay to go with early December, as long as it wasn’t interfering with Christmas or the New Year, wanted that weekend off.”

With the calendar getting tighter, can he forsee a situation where the pre-season competitions are scrapped entirely?

“I would hope not,” responded Bolger. “From my stance, I would only be scrapping them in the context of saying, ‘Well, there’s not much point in we scrapping them if managers are organising challenge games in the same space’.

“There would have to be a bit of joined up thinking on that but I would be reluctant to get rid of those games. I think they do serve a purpose and obviously they’re set up as a benevolent fund as well for players in hardship and that works well for us.

“Over the years we’ve helped many players and ex-players and we’re still doing that. I think it’s laudable from that perspective what we do.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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