Return to HQ for league action may spur Dubs to glory
IT'S being contemplated for both commercial and promotional reasons -- but Dublin's proposed return to Croke Park for their 'home' Allianz Football League games could become a crucial jigsaw piece in Pat Gilroy's attempt to paint the perfect All-Ireland picture.
Parnell Park has hosted most of Dublin's NFL home games for well over a decade, a period which has coincided with their worst run for many years.
Dublin haven't won an All-Ireland SF title (or reached the final) since 1995 or a NFL (Division 1) crown since 1993, while their last appearance in the league final was in 1999 when they lost to Cork in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
The latest proposal is for Dublin footballers to play their home league games in Croke Park, teaming up with the hurlers for double-headers on a few occasions.
It's hoped that with proper marketing, Dublin can turn the these games into major events which would attract large crowds, thereby increasing revenue.
Clubs will be encouraged to support the idea with the promise of funds, depending on how many tickets they sell.
The broader benefit for Dublin footballers could be that playing all their games in Croke Park will give them an advantage in the championship. Croke Park was once regarded as a home venue for Dublin teams, but that changed following the redevelopment and the move to Parnell Park for league games.
Dublin have still played more often than any other county in Croke Park, but it's no longer seen as a home venue. However, that will change if it hosts all their NFL games as it means that the Dublin panel -- including those on the fringes -- will have an intimate knowledge of the stadium.
It remains to be seen how the rest of the country will react to the proposal that Croke Park becomes Dublin's home ground again.
At the very least, it's likely to lead to a demand that it be opened up more regularly for teams who want to conduct training sessions there in the run-up to major championship games.
Up to now, that facility has been largely restricted to counties who haven't played in Croke Park for a long, but it's difficult to see how that policy could be maintained if HQ becomes Dublin's home ground. It would be unfair to deny opponents a chance to train in Croke Park for at least one session, given that Dublin would have played their entire league programme there.
Dublin's sense of ownership of Croke Park hasn't applied since the stadium was redeveloped and they moved to Parnell Park for league games, but it was certainly a factor in previous times, not least in the 1984 All-Ireland semi-final when Tyrone ran to the Hill 16 end (Dublin's usual stomping ground) for their pre-match kickaround.
Recalling the famous incident in his book, John O'Leary revealed that having heard what Tyrone had done, Kevin Heffernan instructed the Dublin team to get in among the Ulster champions.
"How dare they take over our patch? What a cheek! We galloped down to the Hill 16 goal and it was bloody madness down there. Upwards of 45 players were racing among each other, kicking balls in all directions. If I left the ball down to practise a kick-out, the chances were that a Tyrone player would kick it and vice versa. Gerry Hargan got a smack of a ball flush in the face and a few others had narrow escapes," recalled O'Leary.
However, Dublin had made their point and went on to win easily.
"We were so incensed by Tyrone's invasion that we badly wanted to give them a lesson," wrote O'Leary.
Significantly, though, Dublin had used the fact that they regarded Croke Park as their home ground very cleverly.