'We will not play this game in Croke Park': Kildare refuse to waive home advantage

Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier against Mayo has been moved to Croke Park, but Kildare say they will only play at their home ground.

KILDARE GAA HAS this evening categorically stated that its senior football team will not fulfil the All-Ireland SFC round three qualifier against Mayo this Saturday if they are forced to relinquish home advantage and play at Croke Park.

The Kerry team stand for the National Anthem Kildare will not play the game at Croke Park. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Cian O’Neill’s side advanced past Longford last weekend and were this morning paired with Mayo in the next round of qualifiers, which are scheduled to take place on Saturday 30 June.

As the first team out of the pot, Kildare were — as per the rules of the third-round draw — entitled to home advantage for the tie, but a meeting of GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) decided that the capacity of St Conleth’s Park — 8,500 when all-seated — was not suitable for ‘healthy and safety’ reasons.

The game has now been scheduled to take place at Croke Park as the second part of a double-header with Cavan’s qualifier against Tyrone at 7pm.

In a statement, the management committee of Kildare GAA has reinforced its discontent with the decision and, in outlining the chain of events which led to this unprecedented situation, said ‘St Conleth’s Park is perfectly capable of hosting the tie on an all-ticket basis and Newbridge is perfectly capable of dealing with the number of supporters that will attend.’

There was also concern over traffic management in the Newbridge area due to the Irish Derby taking place at the Curragh Racecourse on the same evening, but Kildare GAA said Newbridge Garda Síochána were happy for the fixture at St Conleth’s Park to go ahead.

Tickets for the Croke Park double-header are already available online, and the GAA has insisted it will not budge on its decision, leaving Kildare and the association at loggerheads days before the game.

“Kildare GAA would like to explain the chain of events that has led to the CCCC announcing Croke Park as the venue for the All-Ireland SFC Round 3 Qualifier between Kildare and Mayo, and to state that the team will not be in attendance, as the game should be taking place at our county grounds, St Conleth’s Park,” the statement reads.

“It was with great delight that we greeted a home fixture in this morning’s draw, a fantastic reward for the loyal supporters who have travelled to Owenbeg and Longford for the team’s recent Qualifier successes. It is an attractive proposition too for team management, players, sponsors, the business people of Newbridge and surrounding areas, and all of the stakeholders of Kildare GAA.

“As soon as the draw was made, we were in contact with Newbridge Garda Síochána immediately and they were happy with the fixture going ahead, their only request being that it throw in at 7pm, given the influx of people to the area due to the Irish Derby taking place at Curragh Racecourse at 5.15pm.

“Having received the backing of the Gardai, we sent an email to the CCCC advising them that we would have no difficulty in hosting the fixture as an all-ticket affair and were already putting plans in place to do so.

A general view of St Conleth's Park ahead of the game St Conleth's Park in Newbridge. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We informed the CCCC of the advice surrounding the 7pm throw-in, and advised them that the Management Committee of Kildare GAA, on behalf of our loyal supporters, respectfully expected that the CCCC would fix the game for Saturday, June 30th, at St Conleth’s Park for 7pm and we had no issue with adhering to the criteria for St Conleth’s Park as previously agreed with the National Facilities/Health & Safety committee

“We were asked to provide an alternative venue, an invitation we declined because Kildare are entitled to the home venue as per the draw, and were in the position to do so within all criteria of health and safety, and to the satisfaction of An Garda Síochána.

“The Management Committee of Kildare GAA has been in constant contact with Kildare Senior Football Manager Cian O’Neill. We are all on the same page, adamant that the game take place in Newbridge as the draw dictates.

“When notification arrived that the game was fixed for Croke Park, we informed the CCC that we would not be fulfilling that fixture, because it was a home draw for St Conleth’s Park.

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“This decision does not make sense to us, as we have already hosted attractive Division 1 fixtures this year.

“There is also the concern as to the implications were Kildare to qualify for the so-called Super 8s series. The major selling point of this format was that each team would have one major home fixture. Does this now mean that we in Kildare would be denied that right, were we to qualify?

“We are not attempting to do anything that contravenes health and safety regulations. We can cater for the fixture St Conleth’s Park and it will not cause undue congestion in Newbridge.

“As the management committee of Kildare GAA, we have a responsibility to our team management, players, supporters, sponsors, businesses and every stakeholder in Kildare GAA to insist that we be allowed fulfil the home fixture we are entitled to.

“And we are making it clear that we will not play this game in Croke Park. St Conleth’s Park is perfectly capable of hosting the tie on an all-ticket basis, Newbridge is perfectly capable of dealing with the number of supporters that will attend.”

Cavan were also drawn first against Tyrone but their Breffni Park home is currently out of use as the pitch is being relaid.

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