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Kildare's home rule win leaves GAA red-faced

St Conleth's Park
St Conleth's Park
John Campbell

By John Campbell

So Kildare got their way then. What was initially interpreted as a pathetic bleat from their manager Cian O'Neill suddenly, indeed dramatically, morphed into a strident battle-cry fuelled as it was by an avalanche of social media support.

And the GAA's powers that be were forced to draw in their horns, go back to the drawing board and subsequently confirm that the Lilywhites would after all have home advantage at St Conleth's Park, Newbridge for Saturday's Third Round All-Ireland Qualifier against perennial title challengers Mayo.

It mattered not that Kildare have not won a Championship match of any substance for over a year on their own soil - no, the entire county felt that a grave injustice had been done, the cudgels were taken up and, lo and behold, what appeared to have been the firmest statements of intent emanating from Headquarters that the game would be "at Croke Park or nowhere" dissolved into meaningless garbage.

Of course, Kildare have now set themselves a huge challenge. Having beaten Division Four-bound Derry and luckless Longford in the qualifiers to date, they must strive to terminate Mayo's interest in the destination of yet another All-Ireland title.

And a Mayo side, too, that will be weakened by the absence of imposing duo Tom Parsons and Seamus O'Shea.

For their part, Kildare suffered relegation in the league, found it difficult to field a settled team and occasioned unrest among the very supporters who rushed to support their cause this week - but then home comforts can generally always prove an enticing carrot.

Whatever the outcome of the game, Kildare's robust defiance of the GAA's stance on the choice of venue for a qualifier which was not expected to grab the headlines will already have been noted within every clubhouse in the country, as will the meek submission of the authorities.

Joe Brolly, never short of a word or two, was quick to take recently-installed GAA Director General Tom Ryan to task for not being seen to take a lead in resolving the issue - criticism hardly likely to make the Carlow man more comfortable in his admittedly demanding role.

It seems likely there will not be a meek and mild acceptance of edicts emanating from Croke Park for the foreseeable future.

The Armagh U20 suspensions mini-saga, the flashing of red cards in the aftermath of the Cavan v Down tie last Saturday, Clare's "disgust" at having to travel to Armagh on Saturday and Kildare's fight for home rule - it has been some week to date, hasn't it?

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