MUNSTER Council officials last night moved to allay Waterford concerns that a possible provincial hurling decider against Cork next month will be the start of a home and away agreement between the two counties.
Waterford GAA chairman Tom Cunningham yesterday expressed his fury at what he perceived as an arrangement entered into ‘in the background’ at Munster Council level without any prior consultation with Déise officials, claiming it was ludicrous to suggest that Walsh Park or Fraher Field could be used by the county for such an agreement.
However, Munster Council PRO Jim Forbes clarified the situation by insisting that the Páirc Uí Chaoimh venue for such a potential pairing is simply a stand alone fixture and that it was originally mooted by a Waterford delegate at a Munster Council meeting.
Forbes described it as ‘not possible’ to have a home and away agreement between Cork and Waterford due to capacity restrictions in Déise stadiums. and that holding a provincial final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was part of the Munster Council plan to share matches out between various venues in the province.
“The possibility of Páirc Uí Chaoimh if a Cork-Waterford pairing arose was mooted a couple weeks back by Waterford at a Munster Council meeting,” said Forbes. “But as is the normal practice, we wait until the semi-final pairings are known before making venue decision. The Council had a meeting after the Cork-Tipperary game on Sunday and decided on the venues for the four possible pairings for the Munster hurling final: Cork-Waterford will be in Páirc Ui Chaoimh, Cork-Clare in the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick-Waterford in Semple Stadium and Limerick-Clare also in Semple Stadium.
“There is no suggestion of us starting a home and away agreement between Cork and Waterford. It’s not possible to have an agreement like that. The fact is that home and away agreements can only be entered at senior hurling between Cork, Limerick and Tipperary because they have large enough grounds in their counties. There are no agreements between Clare and Waterford, and other counties, simply because Walsh Park and Cusack Park don’t have the capacities to hold Munster senior hurling championship matches. Games involving Waterford and Clare are either at neutral venues, or in the home ground of their opponents.”
Forbes insisted that it was ‘not set in stone’ that provincial hurling finals would be held in Semple Stadium despite the Thurles venue hosting eight out of the last twelve deciders. The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick held the 2008 final, with Páirc Ui Chaoimh the venue for finals in 2001, 2002 and 2005. Forbes added that it was part of the Munster Council policy of distributing games around major venues in the province.
“There is no agreement that it has to be on in Thurles. Naturally enough, we’d like to see all our major grounds getting the games in the province. It doesn’t always pan out that like that but that is something we try to pursue. We have options available now for whatever pairing comes out of the Munster hurling semi-finals.”
A furious Waterford chairman Tom Cunningham branded the talk about the venue if his county qualify to face Cork in the final as ‘an unnecessary distraction’ ahead of their Munster SHC semi-final against Clare in Semple Stadium next Sunday.
“Only if we can beat Clare, and that will be some task, then and only then will it be time to start talking about the final. I can only try to imagine the added motivation all of this will have given Clare but it is not of our making in any shape or form. It’s an unnecessary distraction.
“I can say with absolute certainty that the matter hasn’t even come before a meeting of the board, let alone making or taking a decision on the proposal. How could our two county venues, Walsh Park and Fraher Field, with respective capacities of 25,000 and 9,000, host a Munster senior hurling final with Cork? It is ludicrous to even suggest that it could happen.”
Sources say Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald is also annoyed at the development before their semi-final, while one player who asked not to be named, expressed his anger at the prospect of playing Cork in their home patch.
“There is no way I will be advocating going to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to play Cork in a final if we get that far. It’s the kind of distraction we need like a hole in the head in the final run-in to what is a major challenge for us next Monday.”
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