I’d heard rumours to this effect over the last few days but it’s been more or less confirmed today that the league match with the Dubs on Sunday week will definitely not now take place at McHale Park and will instead be held at James Stephens Park in Ballina. Sean Feeney says in the Mayo News that the GAA’s Infrastructure Committee (who obviously have the last say on the matter of holding matches at grounds where the builders are in situ) “have given a decision” about hosting the Dubs there. The Board appear to be holding back on a definite announcement pending receipt of the Committee’s report (they’ll start to look like the government if they’re not careful – always a report away from doing anything) but the venue switch appears to be a done deal.
Ballina it is then, which although not much of a difference in mileage terms from up here is a world away in relation to ground capacity. Feeney doesn’t think that the match will need to be an all-ticket one and he bases this assessment on attendances to date and the Dubs’ poor form in the league so far. He could be right but if the day is fine, you could see the Full House signs going up at the showgrounds well before throwing-in time on Sunday week. Best be there early, just in case like.
It’s also noteworthy to see that although the redevelopment works are currently on schedule, in the same report the County Sec cautions that “it’s going to be a push to get everything done” in time for the anticipated Connacht semi-final with either Leitrim or Roscommon at the venue. But now we’re getting ahead of ourselves – sure haven’t we New York to beat first?
Also on venues, the Club Mayo Dublin lads (who were first to break the “Dubs to Ballina” story this morning) have been on to let me know that the Connacht U21 first round clash with Galway on Saturday has also been switched from Castlebar and, like last Sunday’s league match with Westmeath, will now go ahead in Charlestown (throw-in 2.30 pm). So Tom Parsons will get to do his stuff in the county jersey on his own home patch twice in the one week. It’s Galway this time, Tom, so make it count, won’t you?
While we’re on the Mayo News, you might want to check out Mike Finnerty’s match report from the last day, the post-match quotes from Johnno (the same piece also has some related ones from Andy Moran) and Sean Rice’s analysis, where he looks back on the Westmeath game and ahead to the Kerry game.
The Mayo News (where would we be without it for our weekly gossip?) also has an article about who might and might not be available for the trip to Tralee next Sunday. It appears that Pat Harte and Alan Dillon will be fit to play and if so both are likely to start, but that the position regarding Ger Cafferkey, Billy Joe Padden and Barry Moran is more uncertain. I’d say Barry is a definite non-starter, given that the recovery time for a hamstring tear is usually longer than three weeks but it’s hard to know about the other two.
A further complicating factor about Sunday’s match is the U21 game the day before and this is a problem that affects Kerry too, as they open the defence of their Munster and All-Ireland U21 titles against Cork on the same day that we face Galway. That’ll mean that Tommy Walsh and David Moran are unlikely to start for them but we’ll be losing players like Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlin, Tom Parsons, Mikey Sweeney and Aidan O’Shea. While Dillon and Harte can come in for Parsons and Sweeney, replacing the two lads at the back will be more difficult, especially if Ger Cafferkey isn’t back. I think we can expect another delayed team announcement this week.
Finally, on the topic of the Tribesmen, all true Gaelic football fans will have been saddened to hear the news yesterday that the second of the Terrible Twins, Frank Stockwell, had died after a long illness. Frank was one of the icons of the code in the 20th century and although his personal tally of 2-5 in an All-Ireland senior final was eventually eclipsed in more recent times, his haul occurred in the era of the 60-minute final and so still ranks as a unique achievement. May this great sporting legend rest in peace.