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Joe Kernan: Another raw deal for the diehard fans


Enda Muldoon can bring his experience to bear on Saturday as Derry bid to regain credibility against Kildare

Enda Muldoon can bring his experience to bear on Saturday as Derry bid to regain credibility against Kildare

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Enda Muldoon can bring his experience to bear on Saturday as Derry bid to regain credibility against Kildare

Not for the first time this year the more diehard GAA followers are about to be short-changed.

Once more the Croke Park fixtures planners have failed to take on board the fact that, despite the recession and the glut of televised matches, there are still many people who actually prefer to go along to games, even those in which their own county is not involved.

I find it difficult to fathom why the Derry v Kildare and Cork v Down matches have been scheduled as a double bill for Croke Park on Saturday.

I think the GAA authorities have put all their football eggs in the one basket rather than spreading the fixtures over the weekend which would allow fans to take in more games particularly when only one tie (Cork v Down) is due to be televised live.

At this time of the year when the championship begins to really hot up, the appetite to attend matches becomes sharper simply because there is a strong chance of high-quality action, with the majority of ties carrying a sudden-death element.

Fans know that the more advanced stages of the championship invariably provide high-intensity, skilful matches which are generally played in an electric atmosphere in front of big crowds.

These kind of clashes are a long way removed from ties such as Donegal v Antrim and New York v Roscommon which helped to launch the championship programme against a backdrop of virtual indifference.

There are many people who will want to see the Tyrone v Armagh game on Saturday night but would equally love to take in the Croke Park double bill.

This, of course, is impossible because of timings and while the Central Competitions Control Committee will never succeed in pleasing all of the people all of the time, there is the belief that they could perhaps bend a little more in terms of their fixtures scheduling.

I know of quite a number of people who like to attend every match in the Ulster championship and those same folk also show great enthusiasm for going to games when the qualifiers have reached a climax.

Then it’s on to the All-Ireland quarter-finals and it goes without saying that the four games invariably hold great appeal.

Here though the CCCC tend to get it right since two matches are normally played on a Saturday and two the day afterwards. Besides, all four matches are normally televised live.

While I have reservations about fixtures planning in general, it is most encouraging to note that Derry, Kildare, Cork and Down will all get the chance to play at Croke Park on Saturday.

Kildare were recent visitors there when they lost by just a point to Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. Cork and Down of course contested the All Ireland final last year which means that Derry are the only team who have not enjoyed a recent acquaintance with Headquarters.

But given the level of experience they have in their side and the fact that several of their players — among them Enda

Muldoon, Kevin McGuckin, Kevin McCloy, Gerard O’Kane, Conleith Gilligan and Mark Lynch — performed for their clubs and county in the past at Croke Park this will certainly not put them at a disadvantage.

Indeed, I imagine that Derry will welcome the opportunity to bring their normally expansive game to the stadium where the wide open spaces will suit their style.

If this weekend’s games help to continue the recent trend which has seen a marked absence of red cards in major matches then this could prove most encouraging.

Although the pressure has intensified considerably in the race for ‘Sam’ high-profile matches such as the Kerry v Cork Munster final and the Derry v Donegal Ulster final were staged without the referee in either case having to invoke the ultimate sanction.

I know that Laois whistler Maurice Deegan found himself in the firing line after turning down a strong Derry penalty appeal when Emmet McGuckin was fouled close to the Derry posts towards the end of the game but in other respects he did quite well.

He allowed play to flow for the most part and waited for the ball to go dead before returning to the scene of an indiscretion to show a yellow card.

Belfast Telegraph