There was plenty of shock on Wednesday evening when it was announced by the Connacht GAA Council that Hyde Park in Roscommon would be the venue for this year's Connacht Senior Football Championship final between Mayo and Sligo. All indications up to that point were that the game would be played in either Castlebar's Elverys MacHale Park or Galway's Pearse Stadium.
Sligo's win over Roscommon was the first major shock in this year's championship and threw a spanner in the works of the planning of the final, as the Yeats county's home ground of Markiewicz Park does not have the capacity to host the show piece provincial final. Hyde Park, which did host the final between the same counties in 2012, had been seen to have been out of the reckoning after the 2012 Slattery Report reduced the venue's capacity to 18,750 and a later audit found a number of health and safety issues still existed. In 2013 the Connacht Council informed the Roscommon executive that the venue would not be considered for Connacht finals until these were addressed.
So for most of the week indications were that the final would be in either MacHale Park or Pearse Stadium, with the Galway venue looking the most likely as Sligo would loathe to concede home advantage to Mayo even if it meant bringing their supporters on a longer journey to the Salthill venue. But on Wednesday evening the Connacht Council announced in a statement from Connacht Council secretary John Prenty's office that "having considered the following; geographical location of counties, expected attendance, capacities of grounds in the province, Connacht GAA Council has decided to fix the 2015 Connacht Football finals for Hyde Park Roscommon on Sunday, July 19 2015. The council has put an event management plan in place which will give a capacity of greater than 20,000 for the stadium. This will accommodate the expected attendance." It's understood that the Sligo executive had wanted to bring the game to Pearse Stadium before the decision was made by the provincial council on Wednesday.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser yesterday morning, chairman of the Mayo GAA County Board said: "Roscommon surfaced as a possible venue late in the day, we were willing to and tried to deal with Sligo on maybe bringing it to Castlebar, but we didn't get the opportunity to." Connelly also said that making sure that season ticket holders were taken care was going to be a major concern for the county board in the lead up to the game. "We've around 3,500 season ticket holders between the Cairde Maigheo tickets and the other ones from Croke Park, we want to see they are sorted out, we'll be in contact with them as soon as we know the ticketing details for the game." Season ticket holders are normally entitled to a stand seat for games, but that's only wherever it is possible. The covered stand in Hyde Park would not have a capacity to fit much more than the 3,500 season ticket holders that Mayo have. The capacity for the game has been set at around the 23,000 mark by the Connacht Council and it is expected to see a huge demand for tickets for the game. The last time the sides met in the provincial showpiece 23,257 paid into the game that day.