Here's all you need to know about Kildare's dispute with the GAA

By Stephen Barry

Why are the GAA and Kildare at loggerheads?

Kildare were drawn to play Mayo in round 3 of the All-Ireland qualifiers. As the first team out of the bowl on Monday, they are entitled to home advantage. However, yesterday afternoon, the GAA announced that the game would take place in Croke Park on Saturday as part of a double-header with Cavan v Tyrone. Kildare say they will not play in Croke Park and have vowed to tog-out in Newbridge on Saturday.

Why was the game not fixed for a Kildare venue?

St Conleth's Park in Newbridge has a capacity of around 9,000, which is reduced closer to 8,000 for an all-ticket clash. An attendance of 15,000 to 20,000 people would be expected. The CCCC (the committee who set the GAA's fixtures) has cited health and safety grounds for refusing to allow Kildare play the game at home. Kildare refused to propose an alternative venue and the CCCC imposed Croke Park as a solution.

What's the issue?

Ned Quinn, the chair of the CCCC, said that 3,500 of the potential 8,000 tickets would be taken by Mayo's season ticket holders. With some tickets going to Kildare season ticket holders, he said the other 4,000 would likely be split between the two counties, leaving Kildare with little over 2,000 tickets - around 25% of the crowd at their home venue.

How's that a health and safety issue?

Quinn said there were fears over the potential of "a substantial number of people without tickets turning up and seeking admission to the game". He said "there could be animosity shown to people who had tickets, if they couldn't get them and were claiming they were regular supporters of Kildare".

What's Kildare's take on this?

Their County Board say they were in a position to meet all of the previously agreed health and safety criteria for St Conleth's Park. They also had Garda approval to hold the fixture.

Are Sky Sports' TV rights a factor in this?

Sky released a statement to say they'd no influence in a double-header being scheduled. They had to apologise after Tyrone's round 1 qualifier against Meath went to extra-time, causing them to miss more than 20 minutes of Kilkenny's Leinster Hurling clash with Wexford. However, they say they've developed a red-button function to avoid a repeat and added that they've contingency plans in place to cover both games regardless of venue.

Why haven't Cavan made an issue of losing their home advantage too?

Cavan's Kingspan Breffni Park is undergoing redevelopment work. They played their last qualifier in Fermanagh's Brewster Park and accepted Croke Park as an alternative when the double-header was proposed.

Do Kildare have a case?

The guidelines for round 3 qualifiers stated: "The first team drawn will have home advantage". The only exception was to give Division 3 or 4 teams home advantage against Division 1 or 2 teams regardless of who was drawn first.

How did the GAA get around that?

The CCCC say they have final responsibility to decide and sign-off on venues.

Why are Kildare so dug in?

First of all, Kildare travelled away to Derry and Longford for their previous two qualifiers. Now, against a county with larger travelling support, home advantage could give them an edge in their attempt to produce a shock win.

However, this could have implications for the Super 8s too - the GAA's new group-stage system to replace the traditional quarter-finals. Each team is promised one home game, one away game and one game at Croke Park. Should Kildare qualify for that stage, they could likely lose home advantage on the same grounds.

What's the players' view?

Manager Cian O'Neill say the players, management and County Board are all on the same page with their stance. The GPA, the Gaelic Players Association, have also backed Kildare, calling the decision to move the game "unacceptable" and "not fair or reasonable".

Does this have ramifications for other counties?

There have been some disputes over counties' grounds this year alone. Waterford had to play two games away from their Walsh Park home in the Munster Hurling Championship round-robin this year due to its restricted capacity of around 8,000.

Wicklow's home game against Dublin in the Leinster Football Championship was moved to Portlaoise, as happened to Carlow's game against Dublin last year. That was despite Portlaoise being deemed unfit to host a Dublin match in 2016 as their game away to Laois was moved to Nowlan Park, Kilkenny.

Roscommon publicly lobbied for the Connacht Senior Football Final to be played in Dr Hyde Park. That was approved by the Connacht Council subject to numerous conditions, including limiting the capacity under 19,000.

Other counties in contention for the Super 8s may also have smaller grounds, like Kildare.

There's also been the scenario raised that Dublin, despite their willingness to travel outside the capital, could end up with three Super 8s games at Croke Park. This could affect the integrity of the competition.

What's the latest?

A press conference with Cian O'Neill was scheduled for 5pm, but has subsequently been called off due to his work commitments. Kildare GAA are making no further comment at present.

How will it end?

Tickets are already on sale for the Croke Park double-header and GAA director of games administration Feargal McGill told the Irish Times that Mayo will be awarded a walkover should Kildare not show up.

Neither side has publicly shown any hint of a compromise so far.

Could it end with Mayo walking out unopposed in Croker and Kildare doing the same in Newbridge?

In one of the GAA's most bizarre episodes, the 1987 League quarter-final ended in those circumstances after a dispute over extra-time.

Given how quickly this dispute has blown up, a repeat couldn't be ruled out.

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