Appetite to move the goalposts (out of Croke Park)

Kerry want the Super 8 round of matches set for Croke Park next year to be opened up to neutral provincial venues.

Appetite to move the goalposts (out of Croke Park)

Kerry want the Super 8 round of matches set for Croke Park next year to be opened up to neutral provincial venues.

As the scheduling of the Super 8 is set to change so as to give provincial champions home advantage in round one as opposed to round three, Kerry want more than GAA HQ made available for the so-called ‘neutral round’.

The proposal to be discussed at today’s Central Council meeting comes after Donegal questioned why Dublin played two of their three All-Ireland quarter-final phase matches in GAA HQ last summer.

Donegal have confirmed to the Irish Examiner they will put forward a motion to Congress in February in the event that Dublin are in line to again enjoy two Super 8 games in Croke Park.

Cork Central Council delegate Bob Ryan recently stated the county “shouldn’t be a bit afraid to make the suggestion that Croke Park wouldn’t be a venue” for the Super 8.

However, after just 30,740 attended the Kerry-Galway and Monaghan-Kildare Super 8 double-header in Croke Park in July, Kerry chairman Tim Murphy says their primary objective is for provincial venues to be considered by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) for proximity reasons.

“We feel it is important the provincial champions have home advantage first and having spoken to other counties in the Super 8s this year there is a similar feeling there,” opined Murphy.

“There’s no real incentive or benefit for a provincial winner otherwise and that was generally accepted by the Super 8 counties. From what I’m hearing, there’s a good chance of it receiving support too.”

“The question is what is neutral? Is Croke Park neutral? Our view on that would be it is or another venue depending on the teams that are involved.

“We played Galway in Croke Park this year when we would have been happy to have played it in Ennis and it would have lent itself to a good crowd. We’d like to see that flexibility so that if it’s there’s a suitable venue closer to both counties they (CCCC) might consider to host it there.”

Donegal chairman Mick McGrath said the county will strongly consider drafting a proposal to ensure that no team can enjoy home advantage in two of their three Super 8 outings.

Donegal were furious last July when their opener against fellow provincial winners Dublin was arranged for Croke Park, which prompted a summit between county and chief GAA officials prior to the game.

“Before our mid-summer meeting with Croke Park, we refrained from mentioning Dublin,” remarked McGrath. “We didn’t have a problem with Croke Park being deemed a neutral venue but we did have difficulty when a county could use it as a home venue. That was our main bone of contention.

“If it was Meath or Kildare having two home games, it would have been the same — it was never a thing against Dublin.

“It ensured there wasn’t a level playing field and that was not how the Super 8 was sold to us. We take on board the great fanbase Dublin have and it was nothing against them but this wasn’t a level playing field. The feeling among the clubs in Donegal about this is still very strong and irrespective of what happens at Central Council we will likely to put forward a motion to Congress about it next year.”

McGrath agreed with Murphy’s comments about the advantage of playing Super 8 fixtures at provincial venues.

“The atmosphere in Ballybofey and Roscommon prior to our Super 8 games there was as good as you would expect in Castlebar on Connacht final day or Clones on Ulster final day. We bought into the Super 8 idea because it was about bringing the big games back to the provincial towns of Ireland.

“Whether we played in Croke Park first, second or third it’s not a big deal but when we lost to Dublin there in Croke Park it put us on the backfoot. “Football is need of a rejig of sorts because it’s become a dull game.

“A few tweaks will make it more acceptable and likewise for the Super 8.”

Kerry are also backing the recommendation to allow U20 players on a senior county panel to return to the U20s if the senior side has exited the Championship before the U20s. However, they are not so certain about the plans for a non-provincial development league that would precede the U20 football championship, keener on the idea of a group stage involving the four provincial winners with the top two progressing to the All-Ireland final.

As regards the experimental rules, Murphy feels the forward sideline kick will cause operational difficulties but has no problem with the sin bin proposal or the offensive mark.

“From players to managers to clubs, we gave everybody an opportunity to give their opinion. To be fair to Croke Park, they sent out a survey and everybody’s views have been made known in that. The sideline kick going forward, that will be very difficult to implement. I can understand the sentiment but it will be tough in practice because everybody will push forward towards it. The sin bin is okay. As I understand, the mark is for both offensive and defensive. If somebody gets the mark they can still play on so we wouldn’t have any great issue with that either.”

Meanwhile, Tipperary chairman John Devane said more work has to be done on the eligibility rules concerning the new U20 All-Ireland hurling championship.

Offaly’s motion last year included no restrictions but Tipperary’s proposal called for an U20 panel to be limited to those players who had previously not been part of an inter-county senior championship squad. Their recommendation appears to have received backing at central level and such a move would allow the U20 finals to be played as the undercards to the All-Ireland finals. However, Cork have already raised the issue of the attractiveness of the under-age grade and the repercussions it might have for All-Ireland final ticket allocations.

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