It all came good in the end for Kildare, after the suits in Croke Park decided that regardless of the Official Guide they were going to have their own way and play their qualifier with Mayo along with Cavan and Tyrone in Croke Park.
To many it all made a lot of sense. Breffni Park in Cavan is in the process of being upgraded so Cavan had to play their game away from home. Kildare, who play their home games in Newbridge which has a reduced capacity under health and safety standard, was deemed not to be able to handle the crowd that was expected to want to see the game.
Croke Park seemed it logical, but the Kildare county board and their senior management team decided not to conform to what the fixtures committee had decided. It was a brave step by all concerned because the language used by both sides was definite. Neither side was for giving in.
We all know the story now. The good people in Croke Park, under a review, decided that everything was fine with the ground in Newbridge and they were happy for the game to go ahead and it was easy sorting out the Cavan Tyrone fixture.
All was sorted, and everything was rosy in the garden once again.
But is it? The behaviour of the officials in Croke Park have left a lot of people wondering what is really going on within the GAA. The officials who made the original decision were more than aware of the Official Rule, which, by the way, clearly states that the first team drawn out has home advantage. The rule under the heading venues reads: “Home advantage shall be used in rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the All-Ireland qualifier series, with the first team drawn having home advantage.”
So were there other influences at work? The game was covered by Sky Sports. Were they part of the original decision to put the game on in Croke Park? I am sure it would have made it handier and a lot less expensive to have both games in Croker instead to having to send two production teams out to different sites.
When the decision was taken and word got back to the officials in Croke Park that Kildare were having none of it and they as the home team were not for moving, why did they confirm to the media that if Kildare didn’t turn up to headquarters then Mayo would be awarded the game. Straight away by making such a statement they were causing confrontation and making the Association look bad to say the least.
Looking on from the outside, it was as if those in headquarters were suggesting we are the boss and you will do as you’re told.
I listened to the Kildare county chairman give an interview and at no time in his conversation with the radio presenter was the game going to be anywhere else. I am not sure how many county boards would have been as strong in the circumstances. Many would have wilted under the pressure from Croke Park. Instead Kildare grew stronger and insisted publicly that their decision was final.
When Croke Park finally overturned their original decision, the public relations department went into overdrive but for many the Association had been done major harm.
There was also the debate that came forward about all the supporters from Mayo who would want to go to the game. If Newbridge wasn’t big enough surely it should be shifted to a bigger venue. I am sure there were plenty from both counties that would have loved to go to the game but at what and whose expense? Surely not abiding by your own Official Guide was a step too far and questions need be addressed when clubs, county boards and players are being hit with fines and suspensions for infringements of the same Official Guide.
The Kildare players, who have been not at their best this year, rose to the occasion and gave a great account of themselves in what was an open end to end encounter, with Mayo missing too many easy chances in front of goal. Without home advantage Kildare might have struggled, especially in Croke Park, but they got their reward, not just the team but the county board officials and their supporters.
The news that Paddy McBrearty’s injury at the end of the first half of the Ulster final would put him out of football for the rest of the year and maybe some of next year was a huge blow, not only for Donegal and Kilcar but for the player himself who has been one of the most consistent forwards in the country for the last number of years.
He has a long road of rehab in front of him and I have no doubt he will do everything in his power to get back to his very best. I, along with many others, wish him the best of luck.