By Eoghan Cormican
The sense of injustice felt in Kildare at present isn’t exclusive to the county’s footballers.
Spare a thought too for the Kildare hurlers.
The Lilywhites won a second Christy Ring Cup title on Saturday but with no direct promotion to the Joe McDonagh Cup, Joe Quaid’s charges must this Saturday navigate a play-off against Antrim at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh (throw-in 12.45pm).
The Kildare manager has described the venue choice, time of throw-in, and the fact the Joe McDonagh Cup is being reduced from six to five counties as a “disgrace”.
Antrim, who finished fifth in the Joe McDonagh Cup, have had three weeks to prepare for this relegation/promotion fixture, Kildare have been afforded seven days.
Moreover, Quaid has claimed the venue is “practically in Antrim’s backyard” as Belfast to the Athletic Grounds is 66km, whereas the Kildare hurlers face a 168km trip from Naas.
Back in 2014 when Kildare won their first Christy Ring title, they were forced to travel to Mullingar a week later to play Westmeath in a relegation/promotion play-off, a fixture they lost by nine points.
“There is no logic to what the GAA has done. We are not surprised, though. All they are worried about in the GAA is keeping the top teams happy and the rest of us down,” said Quaid.
“It is so wrong. Our lads are going out playing what is a way more important match for Kildare hurling than the Christy Ring final, but they are asked to play it seven days after the pinnacle of their competition and practically, in the backyard of the opposition.
“We are playing as a curtain-raiser to Armagh versus Clare. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to put us as the curtain-raiser to Mayo and Kildare? There is no logic to what they have done.”
Quaid, a two-time All-Star goalkeeper and now in his third year with Kildare, can’t understand why Croke Park have taken the decision to reduce the size of the Joe McDonagh Cup. Bottom-placed Meath have already been relegated to the Christy Ring Cup and they’ll be joined in the third-tier next year by either Kildare or Antrim.
“I’m not against the relegation/promotion play-off because I believe if you’re good enough to play in the Joe McDonagh, you should be able to beat a bottom team in that. But why are they reducing the number of teams in the Joe McDonagh Cup? It beggars belief. We won and are not promoted. Antrim lost the 2016 and 2017 Christy Ring finals but yet were deemed good enough and important enough to be put up in the Joe McDonagh this year.
“It would in one sense [make you question getting involved], but the satisfaction you get from last Saturday’s second-half performance in Croke Park, that is what does it for me.
“I was on a Limerick County Board for three years as a coaching officer and it would suck the life out of you to be stuck in boardrooms. These people are not in touch with reality and the further up you go, the less in touch they are with reality. Cian O’Neill is dead right to make the stand he has. If Kildare is thrown out of the football championship, so be it.
“It’s Newbridge or nowhere for the footballers. For us, it’s anywhere but Armagh.”