Croke Park unlikely to stage finals

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/sport/2009/0327/1224243549300.html  

IAN O’RIORDAN

CROKE PARK is still in contention to stage one or both of the National League finals – although it seems inevitable they will be fixed for a smaller, provincial venue.

The GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) will meet next Tuesday to decide on the venues for the various divisional finals across football and hurling. While Croke Park is automatically considered for the Division One football final, unless ruled out for maintenance purposes, this year’s likely participants indicate it will go elsewhere.

However CCCC chairman Jimmy Dunne yesterday maintained that "nothing had been ruled in or out at this stage" and that all options would be explored when his committee meet next Tuesday.

"We don’t have any criteria for the finals as of yet, nor any potential venues decided at this stage," said Dunne.

It’s fairly obvious, however, that the CCCC won’t be pushing hard for Croke Park. Last year’s Division One football final between Kerry and Derry was fixed for Parnell Park, with Derry triumphing 2-13 to 2-9, and combined with the Division Three final between Wexford and Fermanagh.
Yet together they drew a paltry 9,732 attendance. "You only have to look at the records of recent years and the way attendances have been going,"
added Dunne.

Kerry supporters are notoriously slow to travel unless there’s an All-Ireland championship at stake, and the prospect of playing Derry again, or Galway, will only diminish their interest even further. That Kerry-Galway final was played at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, and attracted just 7,600 – it was, bizarrely, played late on the Sunday evening to avoid a clash with the Munster-Leinster Heineken Cup semi-final.

The football league finals are scheduled for the weekend of April 25/26th – with the Division Three and Division Four finals down for the 25th, and the Division One and Two finals on the 26th. There could, however, be some adjustment there.

The hurling finals are scheduled for May 2/3rd – although Croke Park is an even more unlikely option here as it has been set aside for a potential Heineken Cup semi-final meeting between Munster and Leinster on May 2nd.

Ironically, the one year when Croke Park seems ruled out, Dublin are on course for the final. Currently sharing the top spot in Division One along with Kilkenny and Tipperary, Dublin can secure a place in the final if they beat Tipperary in Thurles this Sunday.

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