Robbie Greville of Westmeath in action against Galway last Sunday. He and his Westmeath colleagues must prepare for a trip to Semple Stadium to face Laois in the relegation play-off on Saturday.

Choice of venue criticised for Saturday’s crucial hurling tie

Westmeath County Committee meeting

The choice of venue for Saturday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 relegation play-off between Westmeath and Laois came up for discussion at last night’s County Committee meeting in The Mullingar Park Hotel.

Westmeath hurling folk in general are unhappy that the county is being forced to travel all the way to Thurles, Tipperary (a round trip of over 160 miles) for the crucial game, which will determine the senior hurlers status for 2024. It has emerged Westmeath refused to engage in a toss for the venue.

Raharney delegate John Donoghue was critical, pointing out that Westmeath has travelled to Portlaoise a number of times in recent years to play Laois in the National Hurling League.

“Every time we play a relegation game, we have to travel to Laois - for the last number of years. Now we have to travel to Thurles to play a relegation game. Did we not look to see if we could get a home venue for ourselves?” he asked.

County Committee Chairman, Frank Mescall said Westmeath made an application for home venue, but the rules were clearly stated at the outset.

“The history of it, John, is not quite as simple as that. The rules of the competition are sent out before they begin. For instance, in the last couple of years, the team that had least home games, three v two, for example, got the play-off in their home venue, so then it was three (home games for everyone). That’s why we have travelled to Portlaoise for the last two times,” he explained.

“On this occasion, before we started into the National Hurling League, it was stated in black and white, ‘relegation play-offs at a neutral venue’. We had the option to toss with Laois for the venue, but our management didn’t want to engage in that.

“Brendan (Shaw) sent a very nice letter to the CCC in Croke Park requesting a home venue and since 2014 listed all the times we have travelled to Portlaoise. But we were told, more than likely, that it would fall on deaf ears. Sure enough it did, and rightly so, because the rules of the competition were there when we entered it.

“There’s nothing we can do about it.”

John Donoghue suggested the game be played in Tullamore if a neutral venue is preordained, but Brendan Shaw explained Offaly are playing there on Saturday in Division 2. Given the inclement weather of late, they (Offaly GAA) are not keen on taking a double header, he explained.

“Limerick are playing Tipperary on Saturday evening at 7pm, so Semple Stadium is available at 2pm. Páirc Tailteann was also in the mix, but they are undergoing upgrading at present and can’t host. Parnell Park is not available, so you're left with very little option,” he said.

Mr Mescall insisted Westmeath should now embrace Semple Stadium.

“I wouldn’t be describing Thurles as very little option,” he remarked. "We should feel almost delighted to go there. On our last visit there we had a really, really good performance, and came away with a really good victory there. We would prefer if it was in TEG Cusack Park, but we fought the fight.”