MONDAY morning (previous week) and having made it back from Kingspan Breffni Park some twelve or 13 hours earlier it seemed our luck was finally on the up and up, writes Tommy Callaghan.
Morning Ireland and the draw for round three of the football qualifiers and lo and behold who came out of the drum first but the county, according to some, that everyone loves to hate at the minute. Kildare.
We waited with baited breath.
The drum was rolled the ball was uncorked and out popped Limerick.
Few complaints and with a home draw, regardless how the game panned out, one would have to be pleased.
And a little icing on the cake ... the winners will meet beaten Connacht finalists, Sligo in round four.
Now you can look at it whatever way you want (and this piece was written mid-week well before the Limerick clash) but if you were told that to get to an All Ireland quarter final you had to beat Limerick and Sligo you would have to be reasonably happy.
And that is not to take either county for granted, both have improved immensely of late and after the Meath set back I believe Kildare have learnt a valuable lesson in that regard.
As that Monday morning moved on the vibes emanating from Croker, and Kildare County Board, were somewhat mixed to say the least.
Croke Park was applying the pressure on Kildare to agree to a switch, very conscious not to be seen to be putting the knife into the shortgrass box (again); while the County Board were adamant the game would go ahead in St Conleth’s regardless.
By tea time the move had been sanctioned (by Croker I hasten to add) and Portlaoise was to become Kildare’s third home venue in some six months after Croke Park (NFL v Tyrone) and of course St Conleth’s.
Were we surprised?
Should we have been surprised?
The answers to those questions are probably yes and maybe.
But on mature reflection, and taking the emotion, not to mention the embarrassment out of it, the answers should have been no and no again.
Yes, of course we have held big crowds at St Conleth’s in the past. Only two years back there was a tremendous turn out for that never-to-be-forgotten game against Antrim the day the late great Dermot Earley was laid to rest.
There were other great occasions.
That qualifier game against Donegal back in 2001 was certainly a day that the turnstiles were creaking with the number of ‘clicks’ it had to endure.
And yet there were no disasters, no accidents and all exited safely and well.
But all has changed now and changed utterly with the arrival of the health and safety ‘man’ and all that entails.
St Conleth’s, of course, is not the only stadium to have their numbers significantly reduced.
But to be fair and honest it is a long, long time ago now that St Conleth’s Park has been declared, in its present state, unfit for purpose.
Splashing on a bit of yellow paint here and there; cleaning up the toilets for a big day is hardly going to change the minds of the H&S folk.
The dressing rooms are about as big enough for a couple of five-a-side teams; the referee’s area is over crowded once the linesmen join the match official and as for the press box, Jesus don’t get me started.
If the truth be known the playing area, a surface second to none mind you, does not really suit Kildare, it is too tight, too cramped and needs to be widened considerably.
On the other hand, O’Moore Park is one of the finest pitches in the country; the seating area is top notch while the terracing is more than adequate.
Yes, we can squeal and shout with indignation and anger when we are told we must move out of St Conleth’s Park for any sort of a decent big game. It will be interesting come the National Football League, and we operating in Division 1, if the authorities will allow games to be played there in 2013.
For a county that boasts one of the biggest followings in the country it is nothing short of disgraceful that we cannot hold a home game that is likely to attract anything close to 8,000.
The time to have a serious look at St Conleth’s has well passed. Yes the Celtic Tiger halted (thankfully) that proposed pie-in-the-sky plan to move out to the Naas Road.
That was never a GAA plan. It was a plan that was dreamt up by developers, for developers and bought into hunk line and sinker by the GAA people of Kildare who thought they were going to get a spanking new stadium ... for sweet feck all.
Talk about being gullible.
St Conleth’s Park remains, in this writer’s view, an absolute ideal location in the centre of town if it can get, not just a make-over but a complete and utter revamp.
Imagine a 10-12,000 all seater with floodlights and proper ancillary facilities where mid-week games could be played, where NFL games could be played on Saturday evenings; where qualifiers could be played, where Leinster Championship games could be held on Friday nights (now that Leinster Council have given the go ahead for such fixtures come next season).
Of course it all comes down to cash.
And cash, as we all know, is in short supply these days.
But when cash was plentiful, when cash was literally falling off the trees, what was done with St. Conleth’s Park?
If the refusal of the CCCC to allow Kildare play Limerick in round three of the qualifiers does nothing else, it might, and I emphasise might, just help to concentrate the minds and finally put an end to the embarrassment that Kildare GAA’s number one ground is at the minute. Time for a splash of paint, fresh soap and new ‘smellies’ in the loos to keep the natives on side is well and truly gone. Tinkering is simply not an option any more!