The Connacht Council announced on Monday that they intend to decide on where this year’s provincial decider will be held after the Leitrim/London semi-final has been played this coming Sunday, noting as they did so that Hyde Park – the hitherto obvious neutral venue – isn’t a runner, having fallen foul of the strictures of the Slattery Report. This should be an easy decision for them to make as it’s as plain as day that McHale Park is the only logical option.
Galway is a great city and in the middle of July the place is always buzzing. It’s sure to be packed with people on July 21st this year too and there’s no reason to add to this multitude by tipping a Connacht final into Salthill.
The first reason for doing so is Pearse Stadium itself. Nice stand, shame about the terracing that accommodates getting on for three-quarters of the 25,000 or so capacity in the place. McHale Park, with all those bloody poles, has issues too but at least everyone going to a match in Castlebar will get somewhere to plank their posteriors. If it’s Salthill, it’s only those in the stand that will have that luxury, meaning that it’ll be a right pain in the same posterior trying to get multiple tickets, including ones for kids and so forth.
Then there’s the location, which doesn’t suit either Leitrim (if Leitrim it is – according to this Mayo News report, London are apparently happy to come to Castlebar if they make the final) or ourselves. Manorhamilton to Castlebar, for example, is seventy miles whereas it’s over 100 to Salthill. From Carrick, the AA calculate that it’d take you two hours to reach Salthill whereas they estimate you’d be in Castlebar thirty minutes ahead of this.
But those times don’t include the monumental pain in the hole that involves negotiating your way through the million and one roundabouts that ring Galway as you snake your tortuous way to Salthill. And don’t get me going on the difficulties you’re likely to face in trying to extricate yourself from the city afterwards. By contrast, Castlebar is a doddle to get into and out of.
I know, I know – Pearse Stadium is the only neutral venue in Connacht with the required capacity to stage the final and if that’s where the jumpers decide we have to go, then that’s where we’ll have to go (and, unlike the last two years, I’ll be back from hols in time to be there this year). But it’ll make no sense at all at all if that’s the venue they choose. Even the local residents don’t like matches taking place there.
By the way, should London pull off another shock and make it through to the final, then the wags will no doubt be championing Anfield or Old Trafford as acceptable half-way venues but I’ve a better idea. I reckon that Croke Park – which isn’t down to host any matches that weekend – would make far more sense: I’m sure the London lads would love to get a taste of HQ and I’d say Leitrim wouldn’t be averse to it either. So if McHale Park falls as an option due to the neutrality issue then Croker it’s got to be. Sure aren’t we going to be camped back there in August anyway?