Wednesday 21 August 2019

Analysis: Dublin’s impressive record outside Croke Park under threat in Omagh

Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, left, following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 2 Phase 2 match between Tyrone and Dublin at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, left, following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 2 Phase 2 match between Tyrone and Dublin at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

IN a recent interview with the Herald, Joe McNally recalled Dublin’s 1983 All-Ireland semi-final replay victory over Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh with a palpable sense of affection.

“The closer you got to Páirc Uí Chaoimh,” the iconic Dublin forward recollected, “it was just bedlam.”

“We went out on the pitch beforehand and to see the crowd, it was just amazing. It was like a carnival.”

“I’d never been away with Dublin before. It was one of the best days we had.”

For those who made the pilgrimage, that lingered as the quintessential ‘Dubs on Tour’ moment until Tommy Carr’s team were drawn to face Kerry in Semple Stadium in the first season of the qualifiers in 2001.

“I was at the back of the bus with Paul Curran, Jason Sherlock, Sennan Connell and Coman Goggins,” Jonny Magee recalled. “We actually came into the square and I had tears in my eyes.

“I had never seen so many Dublin fans in one spot before. And when we came into the square, they just erupted. I looked around and I wasn’t the only one who had tears in my eyes.”

Granted, it’s a small sample size but the subsequent replay remains Dublin’s last Championship loss outside of Croke Park.

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Clearly, what was rare was wonderful for two generations of Dublin players, although the trips to Derry, Longford and Leitrim in 2003 and '04 - despite being ultimately successful - aren’t recalled with anything like the same sentimentality.

It’s against this backdrop and the growing disquiet over the frequency with which Dublin play in Croke Park that the Super 8s were partly sold as the ideal chance to send the Dubs on the road.

Last year’s trip to Omagh wasn’t exactly ‘Welcome To Hell’ stuff.

Afterwards, Jim Gavin spoke of “the fantastic welcome from the Tyrone officials” he and his team enjoyed and the “excitement” generated by travelling to an opposition’s home for a Championship match.

Of the 16,205 in attendance that night, at least half were Dublin supporters and only late in the second half, as Tyrone reduced their deficit from five points to two between the 67th and 72nd minute, did they seem to feed off any local familiarity or derive energy from their support.

In truth, the most interesting thing that happened all night was the narrowing of the Healy Park pitch that Mickey Harte insisted had been done at Sky’s behest - a claim the broadcaster rejected.

Dublin’s three-point victory was their third consecutive win in Omagh between League and Championship, an impressive run considering Tyrone have been either All-Ireland finalists or semi-finalists in each of the past three years.

Sunday’s trip to the same venue may prove more hostile.

The League match between the teams in March, Dublin’s last defeat, was sparky and niggly.

But the fact remains that in Jim Gavin’s wildly successful reign, Dublin’s record away from Croke Park, while still impressive, is slightly less remarkable than their win rate at GAA headquarters.

Here is a statistical breakdown of their record, both home and away.

1 Of Dublin’s 103 games under Gavin, 75 of them have been played in Croke Park, some 72.8%. They have played 36 out of 59 league games at HQ (61%); and 39 out of 44 championship ties there (88.6%).

2 Dublin have won 64, drawn five and lost six of those 75 fixtures at Croker - a win ratio of 85.3%. Using the metric of two points for a win and one for a draw, this equates to 1.77 points per game. Their six losses came against Tyrone (2013 NFL, 2019 NFL), Cork ('14 NFL), Donegal ('14 SFC semi-final), Kerry ('17 NFL final) and Monaghan ('18 NFL).

3 Of the 28 games played either at the opposition’s home or at a neutral venue, Dublin have won 19, drawn four and lost five. Their away win ratio is 67.9% while they earned 1.5 points per game.

4 Dublin have played 36 league games in Croker, winning 28 (for a 77.8% win ratio), drawing three and losing five. Their away spring record from 23 games delivered 14 triumphs (win ratio 60%), four draws and five losses.

5 In championship, Dublin have won 36 (92.3% ratio), drawn two and lost one of their 39 HQ dates while winning all five road trips against Laois ('16), Carlow ('17), Wicklow and Tyrone (both 2018) and Louth (this summer).

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