Liam O'Neill at yesterday's launch of the All-Ireland SHC INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

GAA President O'Neill backs CCCC call to move game to Portlaoise

The decision to move next Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC round three qualifier away from Newbridge has received the support of the GAA President.

GAA PRESIDENT LIAM O’Neill has defended the decision of the CCCC to fix Kildare’s All-Ireland football qualifier against Limerick next Saturday for Portlaoise despite the fact that the Lilywhites had home advantage for the clash after being drawn first when the pairing was made last Monday morning.

O’Neill insists the decision was a pragmatic one given the current reduced capacity of Kildare’s county ground, St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, and the by holding the tie in O’Moore Park, it will enable more supporters to attend the game. A crowd of 15,000 is projected for the tie whereas the Newbridge ground can only accomodate 8,000 spectators.

“The fact of the matter is that a huge number of Kildare people want to see this game. The CCCC in consultation with our safety committee deemed that the number wanting to see the game exceeds the number that can be held in Newbridge. The sensible thing to do was to allow as many possible people to see the game and the only venue in which that could be accommodated, as near to Kildare was Portlaoise and they fixed it for that.

“I would have to accept their decision. That’s what they’re there for. That’s why we have committees. That’s why we ask them to make those sort of calls. It is a difficult call. Everyone would like to see the game being played at the home venue of the team that comes out first. But we’ve had instances of this before. Louth played games in Navan, so it’s not totally unusual.

“I think when people sit down and think about it and when the opportunity is given to more Kildare people to see their team in action in Portlaoise, I think people will accept that the right decision was made. Kildare claim to have had 11,000 followers in Cavan. Well if you have 11,000 people in Cavan you can expect 15 plus now.

O’Neill also expressed his satisfaction with current inter-county refereeing performances despite the criticism of decisions made in last weekend’s football qualifier action with former Meath footballer Bernard Flynn especially vocal in this regard.

“Our new approach to refereeing and Pat McEnaney and his committee will, I think, bring about a change to refereeing in the next couple of years. We’re moving from a stage to rigorous assessment where you started off with 100 marks and you were knocked off points for various things, to a stage where we’re now in a mentoring system where each referee will have a mentor and the positives of his game as well as the areas of his game where he has to improve will be pointed out to him. It’ll be up to the mentor to improve and work with the referee to help improve his performance and that is going to bring about a huge change of attitude at refereeing level. It’s going to be much more positively based. I think referees have to feel confident, they have to feel valued to perform.

“Every controversy that’s seen from two sides, people will have a different view depending on where you’re standing. The referee only gets a second in real time and it’s difficult sometimes to listen to pundits who watch an incident 15 times before they can decide. The referees or the umpires have to make it in real time and that’s where the real bravery is and the real concentration is.I’m happy that we’re facing the right direction. I’m happy that the group we have in charge of refereeing at the moment will take it to the next stage and I’m happy that the mentoring system will be the means by which it will be done.”

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