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Home comforts the secret of league success

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Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke will want to extend his side's winning run

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke will want to extend his side's winning run

Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke will want to extend his side's winning run

WHEN Monaghan entertain Meath in tomorrow's Allianz Division 2 league clash in Clones they will be bidding to extend a winning sequence in league and championship home games to 11.

Not since Kerry beat them in a 2011 Division 1 league match in Inniskeen have Monaghan lost a game on home soil, an impressive record that incorporates an Ulster championship title last summer and six league wins on the bounce.

It has helped them to one of the highest home win-ratios of all counties over the last five years, a period that has seen them climb into Division 1, stay there for two years, then fall two divisions before coming back up last season on the back of an unblemished home record in Division 3.

The variety of divisions Monaghan have played in makes their home record all the more impressive.

From Clones to Inniskeen and Scotstown, they have varied the venues and reaped the results, offering their own unique brand of "hostility," as the former Kerry manager Jack O'Connor recalled it in his memoirs when recalling a trip to Scotstown for a league match.

"The game brought back memories, you get an instinct," he reflected on that 2006 visit. "It was raining and when we got to Scotstown and looked at the place, I said to the lads this was a cauldron. Eight thousand. Tight ground. Hostile territory. People in on the pitch."

Kerry won by a point and O'Connor admitted sensing it was a significant bend on the road that season. It meant that much to them.

What is it about home advantage? In theory the good teams should win at any venue. And a majority of the time they do. But the "cauldron" atmosphere that O'Connor refers to can be replicated anywhere. Teams can arrive at venues to find pitches have been widened or narrowed to suit a home management's preference. Stories of already tight visiting dressing rooms being piled high with equipment to compress the space available abound. Any little edge helps, apparently.

Between familiarity with a venue and the comparative dearth of travel involved, most of the advantages going rest with the home team and the statistics reflect that.

Last year, Gaelic games statistician Rob Carroll analysed qualifier games involving teams from the same divisions from 2008 to 2012 and found that the home team won more than 80pc of the time.

The percentage is much lower for league games, with with a 55.05pc success rate for home Division 1 teams, 51.43pc in Division 2, 60.71pc in Division 3 and 51.74pc in Division 4, where Kilkenny's 16 defeats from 16 home games must be factored in.

The overall percentage for home teams in the four divisions is 54.58pc, with a loss rate of 37.62pc. Just 7.80pc of the 590 games analysed ended in a draw.

Monaghan are not the only county who punch above their weight when it comes to home rule. In the year after appearing in an All-Ireland final, which they lost to Cork, Down picked up seven Division 1 points from a possible 14, six of which were claimed at home.

Over the course of the last five years Down have gone from Division 3 to Division 1 in successive seasons, staying in the top flight for three years before being relegated, and, in that time, 14 of their 19 points in the divisions have been picked up at home, helping them to the fifth-best percentage for home wins since 2009.

Dublin, Donegal, Mayo and Kildare are among the Division 1 teams they have seen off in that time.

Sligo have moved through the divisions over the five-year period in question, reaching Division 2 in 2011, where the altitude was too high for them. But 13 wins from 18 elevates them to fourth best when it comes to home league comforts.

Clare and Leitrim haven't risen above Division 4 in the five years from 2009 to 2013, but their record at home stands up with the best. Admittedly, they have hosted London and Kilkenny to greatly embellish their record, but their failure to win promotion confirms that their best work has been done at home.

Kerry and Cork are the only Division 1 sides with a superior home record to Dublin over the same period of time.

Cork have the best percentage of home wins across all four divisions, losing just four from 18 games that incorporated four from four in the 2009 Division 2 campaign.

At either venue, Pairc UI Rinn or Pairc Ui Chaoimh, they have been difficult to beat, but with four successive league titles (three in Division 1 from 2010 to 2012 and the 2009 Division 2 league crown) that is to be expected at any venue they have played.

Dublin's home record has been suitably enhanced since they made the switch into Croke Park for the 'Spring Series' which is now in its fourth year.

In 13 group league games in Croke Park (including the most recent game against Kerry, not incorporated in the tables attached) they have lost just twice there, to Kerry in the opening game in 2012 and again to Tyrone last year.

Otherwise Kerry, Cork, Mayo and Down have all been beaten twice with Donegal, Armagh and Kildare (Kildare conceded home advantage for capacity reasons) once each, an impressive 11 from 13 ratio. In the two years prior to that switch Dublin had lost as many games as they had won in the seven they played in Parnell Park, with just one draw against Kerry.

The greatest anomalies, perhaps, involve Mayo and Galway at 29th and 30th on our table. Mayo manager James Horan suggested winning some more games on the road as a suitable therapy for a second successive All-Ireland defeat, but their home record could also do with a touch of varnish.

In their defence, Mayo join Kerry and Dublin as the only counties to retain Division 1 status over the five years, but their record of eight home wins from 18 (they have drawn three times) falls well below both Kerry and Dublin.

Only Wicklow, with five, have been involved in more home draws than Galway's four, which tarnishes their home record somewhat.

Irish Independent