Saturday 23 September 2017

Home may be of no comfort to Donegal

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

WHILE Donegal are relieved to have been given the all-clear to host Tyrone in Ballybofey in the Ulster football quarter-final on May 26, results from this year's Allianz Leagues show that home comforts are proving much less of an advantage than usual.

Whether it's a one-off or the start of a new pattern, home teams have won less than half of the games in both codes, bucking the normal trends across all sports at local and international level.

Playing in familiar surroundings in front of a large support has always been regarded as a considerable boost but results in the National Leagues over the last seven weeks show that travelling teams have been doing extremely well.

Of the 118 games played in the four NFL Divisions, plus Divisions 1A and 1B of the NHL, the breakdown is as follows: Home wins: 58; away wins 49; draws 10; neutral 1. The home wins include Dublin's victory over Kildare in the NFL, a game that was originally scheduled for Newbridge before being switched to Croke Park for capacity reasons.

Advantage

Kildare were also entitled to home advantage against Donegal in the first round, but agreed to switch to Croke Park to accommodate an opening night double-header, which also featured Dublin v Cork.

Playing Donegal in Croke Park worked for Kildare, who won by four points but backfired against Dublin who beat the Lilywhites easily.

Kildare's concession of advantage for the Dublin game left Jim Gavin's men with five outings in Croke Park, four of which they have won against Cork, Mayo, Kildare and Down. Their only defeat at HQ came against Tyrone.

Of the 94 football games, there have been 46 home wins, 39 away wins, eight draws, while one was played at a neutral venue. In hurling (1A and 1B) there have been 12 home wins, 10 away wins and two draws.

Unusually, there have been no draws in 48 NFL Division 1 and Division 4 games, while Division 2 and Division 3 have produced a total of eight stalemates.

The unusually high number of away wins will encourage Galway, Cork and Clare in next Sunday's crucial Division 1A hurling clashes against Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary respectively. Clare have already had one away win (v Cork), while Cork and Galway are seeking their first away success.

The decision by the Ulster Council to confirm Ballybofey as the venue for the Donegal-Tyrone Ulster championship glamour clash ends months of speculation that it might be switched to switched to Clones because of capacity problems in MacCumhaill Park.

However, following ground improvement, Ballybofey can accommodate almost 18,000 and while that's well short of the capacity at Clones, Donegal's right to stage the game was upheld. Donegal's last Ulster championship match in Ballybofey was in May 2011 when they beat Antrim at the start of the most successful spell in their championship history, during which they won two Ulster titles and one All-Ireland title in a run where they won 13 of 14 games.

Irish Independent

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