Longford's home difficult is Kildare's opportunity
DUE to Health and Safety reasons, Longford have had to forfeit home venue versus Kildare this Saturday and travel east to Mullingar.
It is a serious loss of advantage. Having recovered from a battering by Dublin in the Leinster championship, Longford rehabilitated themselves with decent wins over both Carlow (home) and Clare (away).
Round 3A beckoned and as luck would have it they were first out of the bowl.
As a result home venue was guaranteed until it dawned on all that Pearse Park, a ground Longford love playing on, was not an option.
So, what's all this lark about home venue? You probably hear or read me ranting on about its importance on a weekly basis and might wonder what the big deal is. In the English Premiership, odds can swing violently depending on who has the advantage of the home crowd, which team has no travel worries and can just fall out of bed, familiarity of surroundings and a deep resolve to defend your patch.
It's not as pronounced in Gaelic football but it is still very important.
I came across some great statistics on the home advantage enjoyed in the All-Ireland Qualifiers (see www.gaelicstats.com) and there can be little argument with the facts.
It is accepted now that home advantage in the NFLs is a proven thesis but what of the Qualifiers? Because the games very often throw up teams from different divisions it can be difficult to get a handle on matters.
Teams of different quality can face-off and the result will hardly matter on home advantage at all. Carlow at home just will not beat Dublin in a qualifier game.
Longford and Kildare are now in Division 3 of the NFL and the home advantage win ratio (for teams in the same NFL Division) in Qualifier games is a staggering 81%.
But you might argue that Kildare must be considered a division above Longford - after all, they have tumbled from 1 to 2 to 3 in successive years while Longford came from 4 to 3.
Suppose we go with that, just for illustrative purposes, we still get the home advantage win ratio (teams in the same division or 1 division apart) of 60 per cent.
Either way, Longford have just had to pass up on a big, big advantage. It's the main reason I have to favour Kildare.