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'A Convenient Untruth' - Cian O'Neill Not Buying GAA Line On Newbridge

'A Convenient Untruth' - Cian O'Neill Not Buying GAA Line On Newbridge
By PJ Browne

"No, absolutely not - it's Newbridge or nowhere," said Cian O'Neill when asked if there was any circumstance in which Kildare GAA would change its mind regarding the stand-off with the GAA.

On Monday, Kildare were drawn at home to face Mayo in round three of the football qualifiers. The GAA scheduled the game as part of a double header in Croke Park on Saturday evening. Kildare, via a strong statement, later announced that they would only play the game at their home venue of St. Conleth's Park in Newbridge.

Feargal McGill, the GAA's director of games administration told the Irish Times on Monday that if Kildare did not turn up for the game at Croke Park, Mayo would be awarded the match. "The last thing we wanted to do was take this out of Newbridge, but we simply had no choice. There is no room for manoeuvre, not when it comes to health and safety," said McGill.

Speaking to KFM on Tuesday morning, Kildare manager O'Neill was not buying that line from the GAA.

I don't see how it can be health and safety because the Slattery Report clearly stated that the accepted capacity by headquarters in Croke Park places St. Conleth's Park at just over 9,000. That's adhering to all health and safety regulations.

If you have a stadium with a capacity of 9,000 or whatever the exact figure is, you offer an all-ticket game, obviously your season ticket holders both from Kildare and Mayo will be offered tickets, and then a public sale for the remainder. Then we go and play football. I know that means that some people that want to go may not get a ticket but that is same for Taylor Swift concert in Croke Park a couple of weeks before a Leinster final and it's the same for an All-Ireland football final.

Not everyone can get to every match and that's unfortunate. The bottom line is we've earned the right for this home fixture by beating Derry in Derry and by beating Longford in Longford. How can it be healthy and safety? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. It's a convenient untruth.

McGill suggested that if Kildare had drawn a side other than Mayo, Newbridge would have been acceptable as a venue. O'Neill viewed this the GAA playing fast and loose with its rules.

"All of a sudden this isn't about the rules and regulations of a draw, it's really about who you pull out of the hat," said O'Neill.

"Are these rules being made up as we go along? It's OK if we drew Clare, Newbridge is fine, no problem. If we draw Mayo, we have to go and play somewhere else. Where is the equity?

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"The fact that they seem to be making this rules up as they go along just to suit what seems to be their agenda and not the agenda of the most important people here which is the players.

"And also, can I add, the supporters who have had to travel to Derry, travel to Longford - a lot of people would not have made those but they certainly would have made Newbridge. Now they just want to take that away from us because it's a convenience for them, we're not having that.

O'Neill could not see the logic of Kildare playing the game at an alternative venue such as O'Moore Park in Portlaoise or O'Connor Park in Tullamore.

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Why would a team who have home venue against a second or third seeded team in the country opt to play a game somewhere other than their home ground when you have rightfully being awarded it? It absolutely makes no sense. Why are we being asked to compromise?

The players are the guys that fought tooth and nail to get us back into this competition. Now we’re back on track and they are asking us to compromise. The big question here is why is this happening and I haven’t heard any logical or rational reason from Croke Park as to why this is happening. If they say to accommodate more supporters, that’s a financial reason.

We’re here to play football. We’re not here to look at what the finance are in the GAA. Unless there is any other reason why St Conleth's Park is not suitable, then it shouldn't be entertained. This is a football competition. Not a financial report.

Prior to the release of Kildare GAA's statement on Monday evening and O'Neill's appearance on the RTÉ Six One News, the opinion of the Kildare players was gauged by captain Eoin Doyle. "To a man, the players agreed that this is not on, 'We're in Newbridge or nowhere'."

O'Neill believes that if the GAA does not budge on this matter, it will have repercussions for the association.

"I would like to think that common sense, logic and fairness will prevail from the GAA's perspective. They've made a huge mistake here and to me, this is an issue which affects the fabric of the GAA. If they don't see their error and change their stance on this, I think it's going to have long-lasting - and I mean long-lasting - implications for the organisation as a whole if they think they can treat players like this.

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"I really would worry for the integrity of any organisation that starts to compromise on rule and regulations that were passed at Congress, and then tweak them as they go along because it suits their narrative, I would really worry about that as an organisation."

Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

See Also: 'We Have Rules!' - GAA Official's Confusing Explanation Of Kildare Decision

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