We’ll get to the match itself in a while, but first let’s deal with the late and controversial change of venue.
Cork footballer Orla Finn followed closely the developments of this week, as you’d expect from someone with such a vested interest in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Her summation of LIT Gaelic Grounds being booked by the LGFA when the association knew the venue could later be taken back off them, which came to pass last weekend, and the subsequent decision to settle on Dublin’s Parnell Park is a great deal more succinct than the whole sorry saga of this week.
“This could have been avoided had it been sorted day one and dragging us all to Dublin now seems a bit mad,” says the six-time All-Ireland winner.
Before we delve deeper into Finn’s thoughts on the venue change, let’s recap on how an All-Ireland semi-final confirmed for LIT Gaelic Grounds on November 16 was changed to the other side of the country six days out from throw-in.
On Monday of this week, the LGFA gave notice of the Cork-Galway All-Ireland semi-final being moved from Limerick to Dublin. The following morning, a Limerick County Board official told this newspaper that when the LGFA came looking for the venue, it was explained to them that in the event of Limerick reaching the All-Ireland hurling final, John Kiely’s panel would get preference over the ladies football fixture if it was a case the Limerick hurlers required use of LIT Gaelic Grounds for a training session on Sunday, December 6.
Despite this warning, the LGFA stuck with LIT Gaelic Grounds.
The LGFA, in a statement issued on Wednesday, said Limerick County Board informed them on Thursday week last that the venue wouldn’t be available on Sunday, December 6 should Limerick overcome Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final, which the Treatymen duly did.
Thurles was explored as an alternative, with a Tipperary County Board official explaining to thethat “stewarding would have been a problem”.
Another factor in Tipperary’s reluctance to have Semple Stadium stage the game was the proximity of the 1.30pm throw-in to the 3.30pm start for Tipperary’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Mayo.
The Tipperary official, though, did stress that “we did not close the door”.
A number of other venues in the region were deemed unsuitable as they were not floodlit grounds and while it is believed MW Hire O’Moore Park in Portlaoise was considered, Dublin’s Parnell Park, in the end, got the nod.
Orla Finn, a member of the Cork set-up since 2011, has seen the equality argument put forward this week, how a senior hurling training session should not be prioritised over an All-Ireland ladies football senior semi-final.
This isn’t an equality issue, she insists. No blame sits at the doorstep of Limerick GAA, the two-time All-Star adds.
“I don't think this is an equality matter. I don't blame Limerick GAA in any way. They had flagged the issue. They are entitled to train on their home ground,” says Finn.
“Limerick GAA were straight out with the LGFA saying the venue wouldn't be available if Limerick got to an All-Ireland final. Limerick are going so well so I think it was a big risk to take to book that venue.
“From day one, it should have been changed from Limerick to somewhere else, somewhere halfway.
“At the end of the day, we'll play it wherever, but this could have been avoided.”
The early throw-in time means driving up from Cork on Sunday morning is not a viable option for Ephie Fitzgerald’s charges.
“With Covid, it is not ideal that we will all be in the one hotel the night before. That's what it has to be now.”
As to the game itself, Cork fell at the semi-final hurdle last year, only the third time in the past 15 seasons that Cork were not involved on All-Ireland final day. Returning to the concluding afternoon of action is the driving motivation on Sunday.
“We are all very hungry this year. We are all delighted and grateful that inter-county football did come back and gave us a chance to have a 2020 season. There is a huge prize at the end of Sunday. We didn't get there last year so it would be lovely to get back there this year.
“This year more than any other year is a year people will always remember and it would mean so much to everyone in the Cork set-up to get to Croke Park.