It’s Sligo’s shout

Pearse MacHale

There we were – as, one suspects, were the Rossies too – assuming that this year’s Connacht final would be played in MacHale Park. But then along came those gutsy Yeatsmen, their great win on Saturday evening sending them into a decider in which it’s their call as to where it’ll take place.

There shouldn’t be any confusion on this score. MacHale Park and Pearse Stadium are the only two grounds currently capable of holding a Connacht final. Hyde Park was in the past and it’s planned that it will be again in the not-too-distant future but for now Castlebar and Salthill are the only options. As has already been pointed out, we have a home and away agreement with Galway, which applies to all championship games (i.e. not just finals) so our next championship meeting with them will be played in MacHale Park. The other Connacht counties are allowed to opt for a neutral venue should they reach the final.

There shouldn’t be any bickering about this state of affairs either. Two or three venues capable of hosting a provincial final are more than enough. Ulster currently only has one and Clones looks set to retain its position as the chosen Ulster final venue for a while longer given the ongoing planning travails relating to the Casement Park redevelopment. Munster has three grounds – Killarney, Thurles and Limerick (God, it pained me to write that) – that can do the job and will have four once the work on Páirc Uí Chaoimh is completed. Leinster I’ll come back to in a bit as policy there provides an interesting counterpoint to that which holds sway in Connacht.

The argument has been made that Sligo and Leitrim (London too? And what about New York?) should get up off their respective holes and construct football grounds that can hold Connacht finals. I don’t follow this logic. There is more than enough in the way of underused GAA facilities dotted up and down the country as it is without adding further to the mix. This is especially so when you consider that Hyde Park comes back into play in a few years time.

Looking back at what’s happened in recent years, we can see that the need for a neutral venue has arisen three times this decade. In 2010 Roscommon and Sligo faced off at MacHale Park and in 2012 we played Sligo at Hyde Park (an apposite error, given what happened on Saturday evening, saw me type “Hype” there just now). In 2013, though, London could have opted to have our Connacht final against them played in Salthill but they chose instead to come to MacHale Park for it.

Logistics, capacity and supporter comfort – both in relation to seating at the ground and traffic considerations – all come very strongly down in favour of MacHale Park on July 19th. But footballing logic points equally strongly in the direction of the seaside. If we were in their shoes, I know which pitch I’d like the match to be played on and it sure wouldn’t be our one.

I guess that, even as we speak, all manner of enticements are being waved in front of the Magpies to get them to come to MacHale Park and, of course, from our point of view I’d be more than happy to see such blandishments bear fruit. But I’m equally happy for it to be their call on what the ultimate decision is and I’d be content too if this decision is made for reasons other than finance.

At this juncture, it’s worth contrasting how Connacht does its business in relation to where its championship matches are played with what happens up here in Leinster. In this part of the country, all of the counties long ago sold their souls for the proverbial thirty pieces of silver and the “great experience” of playing in Croke Park. Now it’s only small fry Leinster games that are played outside HQ – creating as a result a national problem, one not of Dublin’s making let it be stressed, of the Metropolitans never having to play a championship match outside the hermetically sealed environment of Croke Park – while all the other grounds lie idle and fall ever further into disrepair.

This sad state of affairs is all the fault of the bunch of weaklings who represent their counties in Leinster, a province where – Dublin aside – standards have plummeted to a shocking degree in the past decade. But, sure, it all makes inarguable financial sense and you can’t buy the kind of experience that Longford got to go with their 27-point whipping up at HQ the other week. A packed-to-the-gills match against the Dubs at Pearse Park wouldn’t, I’m sure, have held a candle to it.

Maybe Sligo will let the financial (and traffic) imperatives prevail and choose to allow the Connacht final be played at MacHale Park. But maybe they’ll decide that the increased chances of an upset on July 19th make it worth forcing us all to traipse back to Salthill for the game. Good luck to them either way – we should be happy to defend our provincial title wherever they decide this year’s final should be played.

68 thoughts on “It’s Sligo’s shout

  1. Willie Joe, I think the Mayo/Galway home and away arrangement is for all games so regardless of when we play them next the game will be in Castlebar. That has always been the case.

  2. I see Connacht GAA issued a press release which still has TBC for the venue. According to John Prenty in the Western, they hope they will be able to confirm a venue by tomorrow Tuesday. I’d imagine there’s all manner of back and forth happening at the moment.

  3. Salthill holds no disadvantage for us from a playing point of view, we have won our last three games there and are well used to the place. That said you wouldn’t blame Sligo for not wanting to play us in Castlebar.

    With the Galway Arts Festival on the same week/weekend as the Connacht final it will be even worse then the mission some people had getting in and out of Galway last week. Maybe a quick google search on Helicopter hire might not go astray.

  4. Good stuff Willie Joe. Don’t want the Galway lads to have ammunition to confuse the matter next year!

  5. I would love it in Castlebar as it’s a nightmare getting out of Salthill. But as there right Sligo will decide.

  6. I did read somewhere last week, the match would definitely be played in McHale park regardless of Saturdays outcome??. If I were Sligo I would be pushing to get a neutral venue as they will need all the advantages they can muster to have any chance against the green and red!
    Roscommon definitely took their eye of the ball on that one. Shane Currans call for Evans to get the sack probably premature. They can still do damage in the back door. Cake is turning into a bit of a mouth of late

  7. Chrisht Damo, I think cake always had a fair ould gob on him but maybe these days he has a more effective platform. I stood behind his goal for the Ballintubber/Brigids game in the Connaght club semi at McHale park a few months ago and he blathered all day to anyone who was daft enough to heed him. He was in everyones face, ref, umpires and COC. It got comical when a gang of young bucks started slaggin him off…….”hey bignose……your tracksuit is awful tight…..”.

  8. Mayo should say “we will play where we are asked.,,don’t care”. Nothing like demanding of yourself , in 1996 for the replay there was a bit of bargy about who would change jerseys for the replay. Meath quickly said “we will”. Defused the row before it took on legs. Mayo are capable of beating Sligo anywhere. Let’s not make this into an issue.

  9. Cake was always a mouth. He wants to have a say in all matters , needs to keep it down for now, as it’s none of his business what Evans does. I’m sure Ros county board will look after all that.

  10. My money is on Salthill to host the final. Sligo will want and need every ounce of help to catch Mayo and Mc hale park would be a bad move on their part. I think Mayos players wont really care where it’s held, they’ll do what the can to get the win. Any word on coc s knee? That’s a thing we should be worried about a lot more than a game venue.

  11. As a Sligo man it is good to see most people recognise the logic of Sligo playing the game in Salthill. While neither team should “fear” playing anywhere, there is no doubt both would prefer to play their game at home – home advantage counts in GAA, that has been proven time and again and as such it would be an act of pure foolishness not to mention showing a lack of ambition for Sligo to agree to Castlebar.

  12. The tipp county board or Munster council (not sure which but it amounts to the same thing) will give Waterford a sweetener to play the Munster hurling final in Thurles, why? Because it just makes sense to everybody. You’ll get more people in and it’s more accessible to all parties than the Gaelic grounds.
    Sligo should see sense and just play in castlebar, here’s why:
    1. The home venue won’t make much difference in terms of results, it’s a fine big wide pitch and that isn’t a disadvantage to Sligo given their style of play on Saturday night. The days of home advantage being this huge advantage are gone.
    2. In some ways playing at home would nearly put more pressure on Mayo. We’ll be hotly tipped anyway, playing at home will mean we’re almost unbackable.
    3 logistically it’s easier for everyone, teams and fans rather than both counties trapsing across Connacht to get stuck in the salthill hellhole.
    4 I think Pearse stadium is capped at 26k. Mchale park can hold 40 and I reckon u could get 35k at this one if in castlebar. That’s 9,000 extra paying customers who would get to see the match

  13. In the interest of fairness, should Sligo get the call every second time they play a county on a final. Last time they picked Hyde, this time we get to choose, if we meet again next year in the final, let them pick. To me it seems extremely unfair that the Mayo County board took the time and money to redevelop McHale park ( the balls they made of the finances and other aspects in regards to this are another issue), Sligo don’t bother their arse and will never have to play a Connuaght Final in the opposition back yard.
    I mean even the Rossies are prepared to do that… once they sell the bus of course and finish Hyde and can get back to the home and away arrangement.

  14. Paul McDonnell – You can’t except every county to come up with funding for a big ground. That is not viable. As for it being “our turn” to choose a venue against Sligo that is not the arrangement so we can’t go changing the rules now at this stage but maybe that is for a winter discussion or at the annual Connacht AGM.

    Am I right in saying if Galway had beaten us the final would have been in MacHale Park? (Galway v Sligo).

  15. @PMcDonnell

    are you actually suggesting Sligo, Leitrim, London should be building stadia for 30-35k people – every county in Ireland should get off their “arses” to do this.

    You should apply for the Greek finance ministers job.

    Home advantage counts for a lot. Just ask Roscommon.

  16. Dead right, John Cuffe. Play them anywhere they want , even Knock or Croagh Patrick if they wish. Show no fear.

  17. From what I have read on here over the last few days then I think I few people need the final to be in Salthill. They need to get out a bit more.

    If your unhappy with the venue then dont go. The real supporters will travel anyway and the rest will still be talking about it a week later.

  18. Strange to hear so many people say the venue doesn’t matter yet they were up in arms about Limerick??????
    If I were Sligo I’d want it in Salthill and that is where I think it will be

  19. Steve / Cantini, Point I’m making is, every time it’s us and sligo, they get to pick, how is that right right? Fair enough, they don’t built 35k plus stadiums, I’m not advocating that, but where is the incentive for them to develop their grounds? I’m aware of the rules regarding “turns “. I definitely think they need to be changed, that again is my point

  20. Logistically Salthill will be a nightmare, but (weather permitting) will also be a brilliant day out…two sides of the coin i suppose!

  21. Salthill is a complete pain in the hole for fans of both teams. I can completely understand Sligo taking the game to a neutral venue if they feel it will help them. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if they recognise that their fans will also suffer the torment of getting in and out of the kip. I really thought I was finished with it for a few years. I’m threatening not to travel but I know I’ll relent. We should have consigned Castlebar to the doldrums and redeveloped out in Achill.

  22. It has to be salthill. Equal allocation of tickets, their minors have a good chance, constant wind down the pitch would suit their setup. Looking forward to it already. Mayo have over 4 thousand season tickets so allocated seating in the stand. Mayo have recent experience in salthill so advantage mayo again, when did Sligo last play there ?

  23. Agree with John Cuffe (lovely picture on twitter btw) we should be willing to play anywhere.
    It should be onvious that we can beat them anywhere…time to concentrate on more important things.My worry is that Aidan will be left at full forward and defences will be ready for him.Thats not the way to go in my view.I like to see Mayo running at defences..what needs work is the defence and yes the high ball in.We cannot allow one on ones and Keith though brilliant has work to do here.

  24. Paul McDonnell, sell the bus?? This trip to Cavan brings that bus into its own , they can fill it with purple diesel above and it’s practically paying for itself.

  25. Dan that’s a insult to Sligo . If nothing else will get them fired up for the 19 th them sort of odds will get fire in their bellies .MAYO BE AWARE .

  26. Was looking for them earlier Dan, they weren’t up then but did see we were 1/80 to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Not overly surprised with those Connacht final odds, to be honest, but we still need to go out and win the game.

  27. Listening to Anthony Moyles here on Newstalk (a fella I have never liked) but none the less had some interestin comments from Sat evening on co commentary with James Horan. Said Roscommon fans were slagging Horan before the game and even had fans saying “go easy on us in the final” and during the parade Sligo players looked fired up. Roscommon lost the run of themselves. Goes to show and a warning is there for any over confident Mayo fans for the final.

  28. @PMcDonnell
    Hands off my job. Although I’m interested in your idea of selling buses to raise funds. You could be my assistant. Send your CV.

  29. Doesn’t matter if we play Slligo in New York Gortahork or Glenamaddy it will be an entertaining game fair play to Sligo good to see Connaught getting more competitive we should be too strong for them and if we are I will genuinely wish them well in the qualifiers but fair play to them they are in a Connaught final on merit

  30. Salthill makes no difference to us. It’s a game of football with neither team at home. We win often there anyways. It’s only going to be a pain for supporters going to the match. Not over confident but think we will win all the same.

  31. So every time Sligo are in a Connacht final they get to play in a neutral venue?. Lets say Sligo were like Mayo now contesting their 5th final in a row they get to name their venue.
    The last time they played us in a Connacht final they opted for Hyde Park. I know they played Roscommon in McHale park in Connacht final and again they had the call. So if it happened that we were like them those past 5 years we would not play our opponents in their county. Time to cut out the bullshit, its our call now and if they don’t like it too bad. McHale Park is the place to play this final. All the pitches are the required size for championship football, its the crowd capacity and entry to grounds that is more important.
    Time for Connacht GAA to stop the bullshit.

  32. As a Mayo supporter and Sligo admirer I’m not unduly bothered, from a team point of view, where the game is played. I’d love to go to Sligo but that’s not an option.

    I’m not, however, looking forward to meeting the many people to whom I, as a club official, sold County Board tickets for the debt on McHale Park and explaining to them why, this summer, they must face a second two or three hour journey to support the red and green within our own province.

  33. @Yanis
    Once ye leave the pension as is, I’ll start Monday! Would the Germans take an Iou if we sell the bus for my pension?

  34. Just listened to that interview there, Steve. Very interesting surely and they really tease out in detail what may have happened to Roscommon.
    I loved hearing about the attitude of the Sligo boys in the parade – giving encouragement to each other and staring over at the Roscommon lads! That is real C’ship passion at its very best, and it’s nice to hear, especially when all the talk usually surrounds ‘systems’ etc., which can be all a bit too scientific at times.
    We should certainly not underestimate Sligo in the final. As Marren said earlier in the programme, they are a team on the go for a while now and may not have many more chances with that group. They will give it one hell of a lash in 4 weeks time, we can be certain of that. I do think Mayo will be ready, though. And I would be shocked if Sligo choose any venue other than Salthill.
    On a personal note, I lived in Sligo for a time, have many great memories from there, and it’s a match I’m really looking forward to.

  35. Sligo would be insane to not choose Salthill. A bit odd how they are given a choice every time alright, but if they are the rules in place then they should pick what’s best for their football team, and nothing else

    Anyways, hotel booked in Galway already to be on the safe side. Would prefer Castlebar purely because:

    A) it would be a boost for the local economy and the co board accounts and
    B) it’d be better for my own bank account too! All these away trips add up!

    I do like Salthill though and it can be a cracking atmosphere when full. I’d expect around 18k at it, we’ll have the stand to ourselves pretty much. All that matters is that we go on and finish the 5 in a row!

  36. I’ll be there if the Lord above spares me till then but regardless of the time and hardship getting in and out I’ll be dammed if I pay a hotel to stay overnight. Galway hotels do not know when to stop hiking their charges anyway and I’ll die before I give them any encouragement. Considering that Salthill’s capacity is reduced to 26 k odd it will probably be sold out. I wonder what the attendance would be in Castlebar. Connacht do not seem to have the same greed for money as Leinster. If they did practically all matches, certainly finals, would be in Castlebar.

  37. Good to see Cormac Reilly hasn’t lost his sharpness disallowed perfect point the two umpires must be laughing.

  38. Absolutely similar situation in munster re Tipp and Waterford. Tipp played their semi in limerick just like we played our semi in salthill. From a logistics point of view both teams having to travel to limerick makes the same sense as both in Connacht travelling to salthill ~ very little. Thurles and Caslebar are much better venues and far more accessible for supporters with much better transport networks. It appears that common sense may prevail in munster with Waterford seriously considering opting for Thurles in the interest of their players and supporters though its not confirmed yet and I would think they would want some financial incentive for doing so as there would be a bigger crowd in Thurles just like there would be a bigger crowd in Castlebar. And did I mention there no Arts festival in Limerick on munster final day.

  39. I’m not convinced that the crowd will be that much bigger in Castlebar. Maybe a small bit, but nothing overly significant. Would expect maybe 18-20k at either ground. If we can’t get that at an historic Connacht Final, regardless of venue, I would be very disappointed.

  40. It looks like common since will prevail after all, and with a bigger share of the gate, Sligo will agree to the game being played in MacHale park.

  41. Is it true Sligo will accept Castlebar option?
    I assume it’s already unofficially decided even though meeting is not on until tonight?

  42. I’m confident Sligo will choose McHale Park. It clearly would benefit their supporters given the favourable travel conditions, greater availability of tickets and better stadium to watch a game.

    Also, I think their players and mgmt will not see an ocean of difference between playing us in Castlebar vs Galway.

  43. I can see that Mayo – County Board as distinct from team or fans – would want this match in Castlebar – big time for financial reasons.

    So, if there is no agreement on a venue, you must negotiate, and if you negotiate you need some cards to play. What cards have Mayo?

    The only cards they can play it would seem are to offer Sligo a home venue for the next two clashes with Mayo. That would give Sligo something for the long term and something for their bank balance.

  44. Mayo Mchale, what makes you say that Sligo will accept Castlebar?. Have you heard something?

  45. As a Sligo supporter its great to be in another Connaught final. Of course there is a huge challenge awaiting us against the mighty Mayo. Mayo are going for their 5th Nestor Cup in a row which will be 2 more than Sligo have won in the history of the GAA.
    Mayo unfortunately will have a Sligo man playing in midfield and Roscommon man in corner forward which given the resources of the respective counties is unfair. Given the advantages that Mayo have in respect of playing resources, titles, tradition, population to give them home advantage would be an absolute disgraceful decision by Sligo County Board. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and the game is held in Salthill.
    Sligo have been going through a good patch in the last 20 years and have only 1 title to show for it. We would have had a few more I think if we had a ground that could host a Connaught final.

  46. It would be shocking if the Sligo Co. Board put money ahead of their football team’s chances in the Connacht final. This happens yearly in Leinster and we slate teams for it.

  47. There was 20k at Mayo London Connacht final.If Roscommon had made it through there may well have been a record Connacht final attendance as they would have brought a massive crowd and Mayo always have a massive crowd.If it’s in Salthill (which I think is capped at 26k at the moment) it’d expect it to sell out.

    Attendances in Connacht seem to be bucking the national trend the last few years and are healthy.

  48. what about Clones?
    No rule says it has to be Connacht? Ulster finals have been played in Croker.
    It is a lot Cloeer to Sligo than Galway, and not much extra for Mayo folk. At least it will teach Galway that Salthill was a daft place to to build a stadium, unless you are from the Aran Islands.

  49. Nice idea, wecandothis, but the Ulster final is on the same day so that rules Clones out. I think Croke Park is free that day though …

  50. The Sligo Co Board will do the smart thing and travel to Castlebar. Has not some of Mayos worst football happened there? And was that not the site of Sligos great battle and victory in 1975? Or is my memory failing. If a team is right in the heads it’ll do the job anywhere!

  51. I think that Since 1985 Mayo have only lost 5 times in Castlebar, four of those were to Galway. In the same time we have lost twice playing Sligo in Sligo. Its hard to know whether there is a great home advantage for us, our national league form in McHale is poor enough.

  52. Catcol – cash is king, they wouldn’t need to be offering them home advantage in future. If the rumours are true they’ll get an enhanced cut of the gate and we’ll all be saved the trouble of travelling to Salthill.

    RE: McHale Park – am I reight in thinking we haven’t lost to anyone other than Galway there in the championship since 1986? That’s a pretty impressive record – almost 30 years.

  53. Yes in 2015 Mayo have been awful at Mchale Park. Very poor at home to Dublin, Tyrone and Donegal. Luckily Monaghan pressed the self destruct button in our other home fixture. All our best performances were away from home against Kerry, Derry, Cork and recently in Galway. So Mchale park is far from a home fortress for us currently and indeed more like a graveyard for any great expectations we have. Food for thought there for Sligo.

  54. Declan – you’re correct there re not losing to anyone other than Galway at MacHale Park since 1986. The Rossies held us to a draw there in 1991, though, and we lost four times to Galway at MacHale as well since 1986 – in 1987 (final, the worst Connacht final I was ever at), 1998 (first round), 2002 (semi-final) and 2008 (final). That last one was our most recent loss to Galway in the championship.

  55. Paul, Official reports stated that the last time the two counties met in a final (2012) Mayo got the right to choose a neutral venue. They chose Hyde park. East Cork under the most recently list of stadia capacity published Pearse Stadium can hold 33k.

  56. Very hard to see how they could of fit another 13k into salthill the last day. Something is seriously not right with GAA attendance records in general. It never adds up.

  57. well KC, thats news to me… i was under the impression Sligo got to choose all the time. If that’s true then fair enough, my mistake. . Looks like i will have to tell Yanis Varoufakis his job is safe…
    Although he makes a living talking nonsense so ya never know….

  58. There’s no earthly way that Pearse can hold anything remotely close to 33k, KC. That was the stated capacity after the redevelopment alright but the Slattery Report cut that back to 26k or thereabouts.

  59. @KC Stadium capacities in Connacht are as follows (as per Slattery report)

    Venue Capacities

    MacHale Park: 28,187

    Pearse Stadium: 25,341

    Dr Hyde Park: 18,750

  60. To be fair Paul ye were left with little choice as ye could not choose your home ground in 2012. Whether or which the only neutral venue is Salthill. Naturally it is not ideal with the traffic issue. Pearse Stadium basically closed between 1990 and 2003 an in that period Galway’s population mushroomed. When they redeveloped the stadium traffic trends obviously did not feature. The stadium itself is not the issue as facilities, vantage points and the pitch (after the recent drainage works)are spot on. Its the location as has been highlighted continuously.

  61. Galway 99% likely according to my reliable source. should be announced about 10 tonight. Carew won’t budge for Sligo CB who are happy to take money and let Mayo use up their home advantage

  62. Cant blame sligo manager for standing his ground but both sets of supporters will the ones who suffer ..still, we could be complaining about worse ..connacht final here we come !!

  63. @Paul McDonnell

    You are incorrect. In 2012 Hyde Park was picked by Mayo as the Neutral venue contrary to some of the views on this site. On this occasion the venue choice is Sligo’s and they may chose a neutral or mayo’s home pitch. This opens the possibility of a home connacht final for Mayo depending on Sligo’s views, but in no scenario can Sligo get a home venue. They both have alternative rights on choosing nuetral venue.

  64. Jim Flag, a cousin from Sligo town got this information last night, and he seemed to think it was reliable, but now I see Ger Bohan’s sources above says it’s looking more like Pearse Stadium. Seems like the Sligo County Board are split on this one.

  65. Cantini, I’ve acknowledged my error above. I’ll sit in the dunce corner for the evening.

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