Counties want to face Dubs at Croke Park, says Leinster’s Michael Reynolds

Leinster Council secretary Michael Reynolds says Portlaoise remains firmly in the mix to host Dublin in the 2016 football championship but pointed to the general reality that most people want Croke Park because they see it as “Mecca”.

Kilkenny’s Nowlan Park, with a 17,000 seating capacity, has been suggested as the likely alternative to Croke Park if the decision is taken to make the All-Ireland holders hit the road for a provincial opener next summer.

Dublin play the winners of the first round tie between Laois and Wicklow and though Laois’s Portlaoise base has just 6,000 seats, Reynolds said it remains as much an option as Nowlan Park which has been widely touted as the principle alternative. It had been speculated that the larger seating capacity available at Nowlan Park was required to accommodate season-ticket holders, though Reynolds said all options remain on the table.

The decision will be taken on November 11 when it will become clear if crowd favourites Dublin are to play their first championship game away from Croke Park in a decade.

Reynolds rejected the suggestion that staying at Croke Park is a done deal considering the extra money generated there or the fact that just two counties voted for Portlaoise when this exact scenario rose ahead of the 2014 championship. But he did appear to sum up the mood of the Leinster counties who will ultimately vote on whether or not to send Dublin south when he suggested that nobody is “thumping on the table” demanding change.

Asked if he sensed that Leinster counties feel Dublin have an unfair advantage, Reynolds replied: “No, no, you talk to fellas and they don’t (say that). I mean it would be wrong to say that nobody says it’s unfair. But being realistic about it, most people want Croke Park and I know that we make a big deal of this thing, or certainly the media do, about playing in Longford in 2006, but counties don’t come thumping on the table saying, ‘Why is this?’ Croke Park is Mecca.” Reynolds said there will be a balancing act for counties when they consider whether to move Dublin out of Croke Park, pointing out “if counties want grants, there will be less money to go around” as a result of the lower gate receipts at a provincial venue. But the provincial official acknowledged that a mood for change may very well exist when it comes to the vote of county representatives on November 11.

“It depends on the mood on any given occasion,” said Reynolds. “I have no idea at this moment (what the mood is). Nobody has been on to the office calling for one thing or another. This is only the last few days of October so there is still a couple of weeks to put in a motion of order or to let people know that, ‘look, we’re coming with this’.”

Reynolds said that there has been no discussions with Kilkenny about using Nowlan Park, the second-biggest stadium in Leinster outside of Croke Park, for a potential tie with Laois or Wicklow but suggested there wouldn’t be an issue there. He also said, in this situation, a stadium with a mid-range capacity of around 30,000, which has been mooted for several years in the greater Dublin region, would be useful.

“In an ideal world when you have government support, capital support funding, you’d like to examine it,” said Reynolds of the stadium idea.

“The venues around Dublin — Parnell Park is fairly restricted, Drogheda is restricted, Newbridge is very restricted and Navan has that space but whether that would suit the needs other than for Meath, that’s another day’s work. But I don’t think so at the moment, I am certainly not picking it up (a mood to pursue a new stadium).”

Meanwhile, Delaney has rejected the Gaelic Players Association’s proposal for football championship reform, describing it as unfeasible to run off the Leinster football championship in six weeks or less as suggested by the GPA. He also revealed his frustration with the popular opinion that the provincial councils are the principle obstacle to an apparent desire to break up the provincial championships and move to an alternative structure.

“It’s a myth that the provincial councils are as powerful as people think they are. The provincial councils are actually the counties, so it’s the counties that decide. We take our lead from the counties,” said Reynolds.


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