Saturday 20 July 2019

Colm Keys: 'Donegal to press on with Dubs' Croker eviction bid'

Motion to deny champs two 'Super 8s' games at headquarters gets green light

Donegal’s Hugh McFadden and Dublin’s Jonny Cooper compete for the ball during last year’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Donegal want to prevent quarter-final counties from being able to nominate GAA HQ as their home venue. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Donegal’s Hugh McFadden and Dublin’s Jonny Cooper compete for the ball during last year’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Donegal want to prevent quarter-final counties from being able to nominate GAA HQ as their home venue. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Donegal's die is cast. Their motion that "counties who qualify for the football inter-county quarter-final group stage shall not be permitted to nominate Croke Park as their home venue" has made the cut for Congress deliberation later this month.

If it attracts the required 60 per cent, Dublin's first 'Super 8s' game as Leinster champions - it doesn't take a great leap of faith to suggest they will have that mantle - would not be in Croke Park, despite it being a 'home' fixture for them.

Last year Dublin played two Super 8s games in Croke Park to every other county's one - their home fixture against Roscommon in the last round and the 'neutral round' that sees all eight teams play in Croke Park on the same weekend and that was deemed to be presenting them with an unfair advantage.

This year's neutral round will be on the second weekend of the Super 8s after a change in the scheduling to allow provincial champions home advantage first up. Kerry were drivers of this but so too were Donegal who sought a meeting with Croke Park authorities to air their concerns.

But at their December convention, they went further by seeking to prevent counties (Dublin) from access to Croke Park for home matches in this quarter-final cycle.

In the current climate that sees a county enjoying all the trappings of success and wealth as they plot a pathway to a historic first ever All-Ireland five-in-a-row, it's hard to imagine that a majority of delegates to Congress wouldn't vote to support Donegal on this matter.

What's in it for those delegates to do otherwise? If it passes it won't inconvenience the Dublin team too much, if at all. On the road, they've shown themselves to be just as formidable as they are in Croke Park and they'll surely take it in their stride. But that's not the point of the Donegal motion which is keen on the optics of equality at this stage for all counties.

Legislating in this way will leave Dublin's own administrators and those further up the chain with a dilemma - to play their home game in an 8,500-capacity Parnell Park to maintain the integrity of a 'home' fixture or take them out of the city and down to one of the provincial venues with adequate seating, most likely Nowlan Park.

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The prospect of the All-Ireland champions having to uproot to play a home match in another county will potentially highlight the stadium deficit in the city and Dublin's alignment with Croke Park for their spring series games over much of the decade - access for three to four league games each spring where they can run in new players and allow them to familiarise with the surroundings quickly that is far more advantageous, in terms of development, than a championship quarter-final.

But it could also harden a resolve to keep the game in the city and play it in Parnell Park, despite its obvious capacity restrictions.

Choice

Naturally, Parnell Park would not be their choice for an All-Ireland quarter-final but if Dublin played hardball, in the event of the Donegal motion passing, and insisted on Parnell Park as their chosen venue, how would it differ from Newbridge last year?

With over 3,000 season ticket holders in Dublin alone and consideration for tickets for players, officials and sponsors, a very small number of tickets for any Parnell Park home fixture would be available.

The prospect of Mayo and Dublin meeting, a game that could easily draw in excess of 50,000 even for a quarter-final, would leave fixture-makers in a real dilemma. As the home team, it would be Dublin's choice where to go.

Will it come to that? It's hard to see how it won't. Donegal's motion is crisp, has got straight to the point and didn't try to force a choice on which Croke Park game, neutral or home, Dublin should have to forego.

How times have changed when an opportunity to play Dublin in Croke Park was vigorously sought for experience and atmosphere.

Elsewhere in the list of motions released yesterday, a proposal sought to enshrine the Central Competition Controls Committee's role in approving home venues for all championship games, once criteria set out by the National Facilities/Health and Safety Committee are in place.

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