By John Fogarty
GAA director general Páraic Duffy has defended in general the handling of yesterday’s last-minute decision to switch the Roscommon-Dublin Allianz FL Division 1 game from Hyde Park to Páirc Seán MacDiarmada.
Duffy explained the pitch was deemed playable on Friday evening but there had been concerns raised about it following a second inspection on Saturday before it was decided at 9am on Sunday to change venues.
He said Roscommon’s determination to try and stage the game at their home venue was understandable at the same time accepted the call to move the match to Carrick-on-Shannon could have been made earlier.
“The situation is there were concerns about the pitch during the week. The pitch was inspected on Friday evening and the pitch was absolutely playable. A lot of work had been done on it during the week and it was absolutely playable on Friday evening.
“Obviously, there were concerns about the weather forecast and what might happen at the weekend. It was inspected again by an inter-county referee on Saturday and there were doubts expressed. There was water on the pitch at that stage and it would all depend on what would happen overnight. And there was consideration given at that stage to the game being changed.
“Having said that, changing the game was a big call because Roscommon, for them, it was a huge match to have the All-Ireland champions at home. They wanted to play the game at home for all kinds of reasons. The local community wanted the game played in Roscommon, etc. So there was a doubt about it on Saturday and the decision was taken to inspect it again on Sunday morning and, again, it was inspected by an inter-county referee and the thinking was, ‘okay, it rained overnight unfortunately so the pitch wasn't great on Sunday morning’.
“The feeling was that it could have been played in Roscommon if it didn't rain again but that was too big of a risk to take and the decision was taken at that stage to move it. I take the point, maybe the call could have been made sooner but from Roscommon's point of view and the people of Roscommon that was a huge call to make.”
Duffy said news of the rearrangement was relayed via a press release within minutes of the pitch being deemed waterlogged. “In terms of how it was dealt with, when the decision was made, the message went out very, very quickly.
"There was one train went from Dublin to Roscommon on Sunday morning. It arrived at 10 o'clock and members of the (Croke Park) staff did contact Iarnród Eireann to see could they do anything in terms of getting people from Roscommon to Carrick, which is 25/26 miles. They couldn't do that. That's fair enough.
“So we undertook to organise buses to take people from Roscommon to Carrick, contacted hotels and local major B&Bs to let the people that were there know that that facility was available. In fact, the two buses weren't completely full. One was, the second wasn't. The buses were made available and the game went ahead in Carrick.”
As for the decision to move the Roscommon-Mayo Connacht U21 FC final from Hyde Park to Sligo the previous day, Duffy remarked: "The U21 game, the difference there was if you played the U21 game, let’s say the pitch was kind of so-so, you’d be told, ;why did you let the game go ahead on Saturday when the pitch was poor on Sunday?' That (venue change) was a sensible decision to make."
Duffy also praised Leitrim GAA for hosting the game on approximately 24 hours’ notice. “Leitrim doesn't have any full-time staff. They did a wonderful job in getting it ready and the match to go ahead and I want to thank all the volunteers in Leitrim who made that possible yesterday.”