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Off The Ball: Dublin's monopoly of Croke Park needs to be challenged

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Dublin fans salute their team before another big clash at Croke Park

Dublin fans salute their team before another big clash at Croke Park

SPORTSFILE

Dublin fans salute their team before another big clash at Croke Park

This old chestnut again, I'm afraid. You know the story. Not since Pearse Park in 2006 have the Dublin footballers stepped foot outside of Croke Park on a summer's day. It is one of the great failings of the Leinster Council.

Our beloved championship already has more than its fair share of structural quirks and seemingly immovable traditions, but in recent times the organisation has deemed fit to create a brand new imbalance.

And that word, imbalance, is at the very heart of everything which is already wrong with current structures.

Different teams face vastly different routes to the August Bank Holiday weekend; routes which differ in terms of quality of opposition, the gaps between games and, more perversely still, just the actual number of games.

Now it seems one team is guaranteed home advantage all the way to the final. They also just so happen to be best-resourced team in the country.

We discussed the issue last Thursday night with John Horan, chairman of the Leinster Council. He made the point that each county gets to vote on where Dublin play their matches.

Of the 24 Leinster delegates who voted on the issue recently, just two delegates believed Dublin should play a game outside of Croke Park. Why? This is clearly not a decision made in the interests of fairness to the players.

Horan argued that the decision favours fans. He should have said it favours Dublin fans. Fans from the other 11 counties are forced to fork out money on trains and days out in Dublin. So one presumes it is a financial decision. And Horan rightly argued that money made from days in Croke Park is distributed to other counties.

Fair enough. But, in reality, we're only talking about Leinster quarter-finals. In the past two years, Dublin quarter-finals have attracted 33,000 and 40,000 respectively. A crucial point is that these were double-headers. So how much money are we talking about here? Not enough to justify the status quo.

Then there is the other key point. How much do we care about presenting our national game in the best possible light? Because I am utterly sick of watching championship games at Croke Park in front of 35,000 people. It makes for a depressing, even embarrassing, spectacle.

Contrast that stale scenario with a Saturday evening in a packed out O'Moore Park. Suddenly we'll have an atmosphere; it'll make for a better game and the Dubs will face a different type of challenge. And yet just two Leinster delegates agree with me? There's something funny going on here.

Irish Independent