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Pitch battle breaks out in Mayo

Sport

GREEN SHOOTS Some footballs are pictured on the new surface at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar on Sunday week last. Pic: Conor McKeown

Michael Commins

A WAR of words has broken out in Mayo GAA circles after the County Board Executive refused a request from the Hurling Board to allow Mayo to play their upcoming Christy Ring Cup games against Sligo and Derry in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park.
Mayo GAA Hurling Board chairman, Jimmy Connor, submitted a request to facilitate the hurlers with a switch of venue from Ballina to the newly-resurfaced MacHale Park which hosted its inaugural game between Mayo and Galway footballers last Sunday week.
“I put in a request at executive meeting and it was turned down. I cannot understand it,” he told The Mayo News. “There was no trouble in allowing the Galway footballers in for a session and a kick around on the pitch the week before the match.
“It is very disappointing that our county hurlers are not given the same opportunity as our football brethren to play on the hallowed surface at county headquarters in Castlebar. We are hoping for a change of attitude even at this late stage,” said Jimmy.
Mayo hurling selector, Johnny Cunnane, says there is a lot of annoyance that the county hurlers are being denied the right to play a championship game on the new pitch.
“The application was to move our game with Sligo next Saturday from Ballina to Castlebar now that it is open,” he said. “The request was flatly turned down saying the pitch is ‘being minded’. 
“Our senior footballers have trained there and will most likely continue to do so. “If they were minding the pitch why did they let hundreds of people out on the pitch after the Mayo Galway game. There is no guarantee the Mayo footballers will have another home game in Castlebar this year.
“They might have resurfaced the pitch but nothing changes in terms of attitude,” he added. “The counter request when MacHale Park was refused was to move it to Tooreen but they will not do that because of the infamous saying ‘it is not a county ground’. They couldn’t care less about us.
“If we were to beat Sligo and Derry in the closing two rounds, we would be in the Christy Ring Cup Final. The new surface and wide expanses of MacHale Park suits us much better. The lads would love to play there.
“Nothing changes in Mayo,” added Cunnane.
“What we are seeing here are complete double standards by the County Board. “This would not happen in any other county in the country. No respect is being showing to the hurling fraternity with this attitude.”
However, Mayo GAA Secretary, Dermot Butler, utterly refuted Cunnane’s claims.
“There is absolutely no such thing as double standards or disrespect and I resent that being said,” he told The Mayo News last night.
“We are following to the letter, the recommendations of Stuart Wilson, the head-groundsman in Croke Park, in relation to the surface being protected.
“I and the county board have worked tirelessly this year to sort out eligibility challenges for the senior hurling team and we have worked hard to get Tooreen designated as a county ground.
“We have actually gone back to Croke Park in recent weeks to ask what we need to do to get that designation over the line - and of course we want our hurlers playing in MacHale Park, but that’s not possible this year.
“Instead, our hurlers are designated to play in Ballina, the same as our minor footballers, who will face Sligo there on Friday night in a big championship match.
“It’s true that our senior footballers have been on MacHale Park a few times, but they don’t train on it, they just use it for ball work. It’s a balancing act.
“It has taken a lot of supporters’ money to raise the standard of the pitch and the senior footballers are our ‘million dollar’ team, so we have to be cognisant of that fact too,” he said before adding that there is some repair work currently being carried out in the Albany End goal area which means the chances of a u-turn this week are out of the question.
Meanwhile, Mayo continue their preparations for their fourth round game against Sligo at 2pm on Saturday. A win here would see them take on Derry at a Mayo venue the following week for a place in the Christy Ring Cup Final against Kildare.

 

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