The staging of the Leinster SFC match between Dublin and Laois for Nowlan Park has come in for criticism in some quarters, but the decision remains a “logical” one according to the Leinster Council.
The reigning All-Ireland champions get their 2016 defence underway on Saturday evening (live on RTÉ Radio 1 from 7pm, live tracker on RTÉ.ie) and few would bet against a continuation of their provincial domination.
Jim Gavin’s side are aiming for an incredible 11th provincial title in 12 years and after seeing off the challenge of Wicklow in the first round, Laois face the blue juggernaut in the unfamiliar surroundings of Nowlan Park.
Laois manager Mick Lillis has described the decision by the Leinster Council to play the match in Kilkenny rather than O’Moore Park as “crazy”, but Leinster GAA Communications Executive Cian Murphy insists that it was the most sensible option available last year.
“There’s a lot of logic behind it” he told the RTÉ GAA podcast Jones' Road, hosted by Damian Lawlor.
“What you have to remember is that 10 years, there has been a decision in Leinster where the counties that make up the Leinster Council have decided that because of the drawing power of Dublin and the crowds that follow them, that they have to be based in the best ground in Leinster, which is Croke Park.
“A decision was made last October that they should be moved outside of Croke Park.
“Once you decide to move them out of the best ground, logic would dictate that you move them to the next best ground, which from a geographical point of view because they were playing Laois or Wicklow, was Nowlan Park.
“There are no hidden agendas.”
Another factor behind the decision to choose Nowlan Park over O’Moore Park was due to the fact that more than 3,000 GAA season ticket holders are entitled to seat, which would limit general sales if Portlaoise was the venue.
“In Portlaoise you have less than 6,000 seats, that’s before you factor that group of people in, whereas in Kilkeny there are 17,800 seats.
“You could have been left with a situation [Portlaoise] where you would only have had, if we were lucky, a couple of thousand seats to sell for the general public.
“In Leinster they have a long tradition of looking after family groups and kids, students and OAPS with special ticket offers.
“All those people are going to be entitled to a seat now, which we will be able to do in Nowlan Park because of the capacity for seating which you wouldn’t be able to do in O’Moore Park.”
Murphy said that it was “natural” that many Laois supporters feel aggrieved, believing their only chance of upsetting Dublin would be with home advantage, but insists the decision was made in the best interests of the game.
“It’s being perceived in Laois as a slight against Laois. It’s unfortunate that they might think that way,” he said.
“It absolutely wasn’t a decision taken against Laois.”
source: RTE Sport