With the Kildare-Mayo game finally being fixed for Newbridge, Hot Press contributing editor – and lifelong Kildare fan – Paul Nolan outlines why this is about more than just a single game.
Throughout this decade, I and other Kildare fans have watched as a succession of decisions regarding fixtures, financing and other issues have gone against us.
Our neighbours and historic rivals Dublin have become a runaway train and we have been all-too accomodating when it has come to giving up home league fixtures against them – as well as happily complying with their more-or-less permanent residence in Croke Park during the Leinster championship. It was a sickly relationship that had become symbolic of our – and other counties’ – meek towing of the GAA establishment line.
Well, the Mayo game was when we shouted stop. The shocking arrogance the GAA showed before, during and after this sorry debacle has revealed the extent to which commercialism and elitism rules the roost in GAA HQ. A succession of prominent figures in the association – ex-presidents Sean Kelly and Nicky Brennan among them – have completely misjudged the intensity of feeling around this issue.
Unfortunately, it’s not an attitude that is confined to GAA officialdom either. On the very day the match was moved to Newbridge, the Irish Times published an article, headlined ‘GAA Correct Not To Respond To Kildare Ultimatum’, which backed the GAA establishment to the hilt.
Despite all this, the resolve of the Kildare team, management, county board and supporters ultimately prevailed.
The likelihood is that this is a moment which will lead to more counties taking a stand against commercial-led decisions which are blatantly unjust.
I have been following this group of Kildare players since they were minors in 2010, when a thrilling double victory over Dublin heralded the arrival of hugely gifted players like Kevin Feely and Niall Kelly. I have enjoyed some thrilling moments following them since, including an U21 Leinster title, promotion to Div 1 and a journey to last year’s Leinster final.
A shot at one of the finest GAA teams of the 21st century is another important moment in their development. It is only right that it is played in their home ground – and my home town.
Newbridge Or Nowhere. Cill Dara Abu.