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No home comforts in Croker for Dubs

Stats show hurlers twice as likely to win in Parnell Park

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Dublin and Ballyboden teammates Paul Ryan (l) and Shane Durkin celebrate Dublin’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final win over Kilkenny at Croke Park in 2011. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin and Ballyboden teammates Paul Ryan (l) and Shane Durkin celebrate Dublin’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final win over Kilkenny at Croke Park in 2011. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin and Ballyboden teammates Paul Ryan (l) and Shane Durkin celebrate Dublin’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final win over Kilkenny at Croke Park in 2011. Photo: Sportsfile

Anthony Daly and Pat Gilroy had opposing views as to which 'home' gave Dublin's hurlers the greatest advantage during their respective reigns.

Daly's theory was simple but effectively proven during his transformative stint as manager between 2008 and 2014.

The way he saw it, Dublin needed to start beating hurling's elite counties with a degree of regularity to justify pulling up a seat at the top table.

Only then, would they be fit to challenge for trophies.

And Parnell Park, with its tight pitch (141m x 82m), its grey walls and its intimate crowd proximity, was the most helpfully awkward place to achieve that.

The chief citation on Daly's thesis was Cusack Park in Ennis, where Clare rarely lost, even in their doldrum years.

Granted, there were no 'Welcome To The Hell' banners draped over the advertising hoardings at the church end in Parnell Park, but it isn't high on any of hurling's blue bloods' lists of places to visit in a given season.

As Nicky English observed last year, "You could argue if you were the opposition whether it's fair to actually play in Parnell Park, because it's very tight."

The ground, effectively deserted by Dublin's footballers, knitted itself into a sort of comfort blanket for their hurlers under Daly.

They went unbeaten there in league and championship between 27 March 2011 until 2 April 2016, the second season of the post-Daly era.

Incinerated

Unquestionably, Dublin's two greatest days of the past 80 years came in Croke Park, when they incinerated Kilkenny in the 2011 League final and then beat a Galway team who had been All-Ireland finalists the previous September by 12 points in the 2013 Leinster decider.

But the grunt work before those victories was done on rustic days in Parnell Park, gritty wins against teams who arrived in Donnycarney and concluded that they didn't quite fancy it as much as Dublin.

Gilroy saw it differently.

By the time he took over at the end of 2017, opportunities for playing home League games in Croke Park as part of a 'Spring Series' double-header with the footballers had become rarer due to preventative scheduling.

But with the advent of a newly-minted provincial championship structure guaranteeing two designated 'home' fixtures, Gilroy was emphatically in favour of playing them in Croke Park.

"All the big games in the season come in Croke Park," he reasoned. "You've got to know how to play that pitch.

"Because it's different. It's not just the crowd. It's the size of the pitch and managing that."

He didn't get his wish. And the unexpected brevity of his reign never allowed for full exploration of Gilroy's theory.

Dublin lost by 10 points to Offaly in Croke Park on the occasion of his first league game as manager and went down by 11 there to Tipperary in the competition quarter-final.

And whatever the intangible benefits of more regular exposure to Croke Park's unique environs, there is no doubt that playing in Parnell Park presents Dublin with a greater chance of winning.

In their last 29 games in the official home of Dublin GAA - stretching back to the beginning of Daly's time in charge - they have won 20, lost eight and drawn one - a success rate of 69%.

In the same time, they visited Croke Park 23 times - winning just seven, losing 14 and drawing two.

That gives them a 30.43% win record at GAA HQ since the beginning of 2009.

Tomorrow night, they'll play their first game in Croke Park under Mattie Kenny against Wexford, a team seemingly custom built to best utilise its vast expanses.

The current Dublin manager's own most recent direct experience on Jones' Road was the pulsating 2018 drawn All-Ireland club final when he managed Cuala against Na Piarsaigh.

But already, he has seen closely the value of Parnell Park as a home venue for Dublin.

In six league and championship games played there under Kenny's watch so far, his team have won five and drawn the other one - against Wexford last summer.

For all that, he was more inclined to highlight the benefits of playing in Croke Park when asked after last week's victory over Carlow.

"But sure every hurler's dream is to play in Croke Park," Kenny reasoned. "It's a place you would never get tired of going to, as a supporter or a player.

"The ball will be moving a lot faster there on Saturday night, so it's an opportunity to really test ourselves against an excellent Wexford team.

"Irrespective of the result, I'm sure that outing next Saturday night is going to bring both teams on a lot."


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