Former Laois star Peter O’Leary has accused GAA chiefs of favouring bigger counties, specifically Dublin, after the times for Sunday’s Leinster SFC semi-finals were changed following the Republic of Ireland's progression to the last 16 of the European soccer championships, writes Jackie Cahill.
Ireland’s victory over Italy on Wednesday evening saw Leinster GAA top brass react within minutes by announcing that the Kildare-Westmeath and Dublin-Meath games will now throw in at 4.15 and 6.35 respectively, after they were originally pencilled in for 2pm and 4pm starts.
But O’Leary is unhappy that similar leeway wasn’t afforded to Laois and Armagh last Saturday, with the second half of the Ireland-Belgium game reaching a conclusion when the All-Ireland SFC qualifier at O’Moore Park got underway.
O’Leary said: “I don’t mind the fact that the games have been changed but it’s clear that they already had it pre-planned.
“It was within minutes of the Ireland match finishing when the GAA had it announced.
“I’m sure they didn’t have a meeting within 5 minutes and they really don’t do themselves any favours.
“Look at the Laois subs situation the last day, the Meath and Louth fiasco in 2010 and how long it took for those to be resolved and yet they had pre-planned for Dublin.
“It’s blatantly obvious they knew they were going to change the Dublin.
“It’s obviously the right decision and there can be no debate over it but why didn’t they do the same last Saturday for Laois-Armagh?
“Maybe they didn’t realise (the clash) at the start but there was enough uproar within an hour to know they could have changed it.
“A lot of that seems to be down to RTÉ. They’re probably thinking that if they had the Ireland match on, nobody was going to tune in and watch the Leinster semi-finals but with them separate, they’ll have a long stint of viewers
“With Laois and Armagh, they weren’t too bothered by the amount of viewers for that.
“Why didn’t they announce earlier in the week that if Ireland beat Italy, that they’d move Sunday’s games? What harm if people knew?”
There is some good news for rail passengers who had already booked train travel this Sunday, and now wish to change the time of their travel to see the boys in green take on France 6 or the rescheduled Croke Park double-header.
Iarnród Éireann has announced that the €10 surcharge, which usually applies to customers with online reservations who wish to travel on a different train on the same date, has been scrapped for this Sunday for those with original bookings from 11.00hrs onwards.
Customers can board alternative services with their original online-booked ticket, but are advised that they will not have a seat reservation on the alternative service.
Extra trains will also operate on the Maynooth and M3 Parkway commuter lines before and after the action at Croker, as well as extra services serving all stations from Longford to Drumcondra.
O’Leary, who retired from inter-county football in December 2014, has also described the Laois substitutes saga that came to light after last weekend’s victory over Armagh as “crazy.”
After using seven subs, Laois were ordered to replay against the Orchard County on Saturday week.
And O’Leary said: “It’s crazy how it happened really. It should have been fairly obvious at the time. From what I can gather, they asked the fourth official and he gave the go-ahead.
“But it’s crazy they have to replay the match for the sake of 60 seconds. Even if they were in doubt, why risk it? Things like that shouldn’t be happening. It’s hard enough getting a championship win against the other toughest team in that draw and now we have to play them again.”
And O’Leary has appealed to Laois fans to come out in support of the team, admitting that support has dwindled considerably in recent years.
“We were outnumbered in every home match in the League too,” said O’Leary.
“Armagh, in fairness, do travel fairly well but you’d like to think we’d have a better support the next day.
“Winning a match by two or three points with 60 seconds to go, there’s no way the opposition support should be dominating yours at home. That shouldn’t be the case but maybe the Laois support has this thing against the Laois team in that they didn’t like how they were playing in recent years. Now Laois are playing open football but they still give out when they’re beaten. They can’t have it every way.”