A Munster final in Nowlan Park?

THE Munster hurling final could be played in Kilkenny next year.

Waterford GAA secretary Timmy O’Keeffe has proposed Nowlan Park as a ‘home’ venue for all Déise games as the only way the county would accede to the Munster Council’s mooted home and away finals.

A furious row erupted between the Council and Board over the venue for the Waterford-Cork Munster SHC final this year.

O’Keeffe’s report to annual convention tomorrow night is unlikely to bring an end to the matter. He said Waterford would consider entering an agreement provided their choice of home venue, Nowlan Park, would be accepted because they did not have adequate capacity in Walsh Park (20,000).

“Apart from the prohibitive building and running costs involved, such a project would be a white elephant rarely full and a permanent millstone around our neck,” he said. “We could, however, enter into a home-and-away arrangement with all the othercounties if we were to nominate Nowlan Park in Kilkenny as our home venue and play our homeMunster senior hurling championship games there.

“Nowlan Park has a capacity of approximately 30,000 and now, with the new motorway from Kilmeaden, it is located within a 30-minute drive of 70% of the population of our county.”

According to O’Keeffe the venue makes sense to Waterford people. It’s 31 miles from Waterford city to Kilkenny while the city to Thurles is more than double that at 63 miles. From Lismore both Kilkenny and Thurles are almost the same distance.

“The concept of playing major provincial games outside the province is not new,” the secretary added. “Just a few years ago the Ulster senior football final was played in Croke Park.”

O’Keeffe’s comments are certain to cause a stir outside (and possibly inside) the confines of Waterford. It remains to be seen what reaction, if any, they will receive from delegates at the convention.

In June the Munster Council disassociated itself from suggestions that a plan was hatched “behind closed doors without the knowledge of the Waterford GAA Executive”.

It had emerged that Waterford had agreed to play Cork in the Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, rather than Semple Stadium in Thurles, if both counties came through their respective semi-finals.

“It was clear to the council officers that the request from Waterford torevisit the venue decision wasconsidered and decided on by theExecutive of Waterford GAA County Committee,” a statement read.

Though Semple Stadium was the original choice for the Munster final, the statement pinpointed a Munster Council meeting of May 30 as the date when Páirc Uí Chaoimh wasapproved for the fixture by theCouncils Competitions Control Committee “following a strong and reasonable case being presented to it by Waterford GAA”.

Munster Council PRO Jim Forbes last night warned that any proposed home and away arrangements could not be introduced for 2011 provincial championship games.

“The Competitions Control Committee of Munster Council decide on venues, times etc. All the venues for our championship games have been ratified for 2011. Any arrangements that counties have are in place and any new arrangements would have to be ratified by the Competitions Control Committee. Whatever agreement that Waterford have, or hope to have, could not be used in 2011.”

He added: “It would be unusual if a Munster final was to be played outside the province. We have two stadiums with 50,000 plus capacity and one stadium which takes 43,500. So why go outside the province? I think the province is well served for our needs.”

Elsewhere in his report O’Keeffe insisted that if Waterford are to remain in the top four hurling counties they will have to raise additional revenues to support team training.

On the team’s triumphant march through Munster the secretary recalled two ‘epic’ games in the final against Cork.

Despite losing to Tipperary in the semi-final he acknowledged: “Overall however it was a reasonably successful year and on the field of play our team was always competitive.”

There will be just one convention contest to fill. The PRO post is being vacated by Abbeyside/Ballinacourty’s Joe Cleary, who becomes the new county treasurer following the unexpected decision of Michael Hogan to stand aside. Tomas Kiely (Abbeyide/Ballinacourty) and Emer Barry (Lismore) are the contenders to become the board’s PRO. Should Emer Barry come out on top she will create her own piece of GAA history in Waterford by becoming the first ever female member of the county board’s executive committee.

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