Wednesday 23 January 2019

Comment: Donegal were dead right to raise Croke Park issue and the GAA shouldn't wait until 2020 to act

Cormac Byrne

The length of discussion at the 2017 GAA Congress on the 'Super 8' proposal: 32 minutes. Number of speakers: 15. Number against the proposal: 2. Time spent discussing the fact that Dublin would play twice at Croke Park: Zilch.

The first speaker on the Super 8 proposal welcomed the fact that teams would play one game at Croke Park, one game at home and a 'neutral' game. He wasn't corrected.

The issue wasn't teased out and has been dormant for almost a year-and-a-half. It's is very much active now and has the potential to explode.

Donegal have sought clarification from the GAA as to how a county (Dublin) can use one stadium (Croke Park) "as both Neutral and Home venue". If it's a neutral game when they face the Dubs, how can it be a home game for the All-Ireland champions when the winners of Roscommon and Armagh come to the capital.

Paraic Duffy's original proposal document acknowledged the fact that the Dubs would have two of their three games at GAA headquarters but this was an improvement because before now, all their quarter-finals were at Jones' Road.

The fact that Dublin will essentially have two home games and everyone else gets one has not been lost on observers, especially in light of last week's 'Newbridge or nowhere' controversy.

Donegal have acted and now the GAA must offer an explanation.

Rule 6.28(a)(iii) lays out the structure of the Super 8 series and some have correctly pointed out that at no stage is a game at a 'neutral' venue mentioned:


Under the rules, Donegal don't really have a leg to stand on but it's clear that Dublin have a clear advantage over the seven other teams that will compete.

The argument that won the day for Kildare last week, that rules are rules, will probably stifle Donegal here but they have opened Pandora's box.

Whether the GAA like to admit it or not, the Dubs already enjoy a significant financial and commercial advantage over their competitors and playing all their biggest games, including their home league games in Croker also gives them a competitive advantage.

The argument that Croke Park is not a 'home' venue for Dublin because they rent it off the GAA or that they don't train there doesn't carry much water.

If that is the case, then Dublin should play the 'home' game with the winner of Roscommon or Armagh at Parnell Park.

The 'note' above clearly states that 'Home Venues' will be subject to approval by the Central Competitions Control Committee. If the CCCC wants to safeguard the integrity of the All-Ireland Championship and ensure that the last eight teams have a fairer shot at success then they should either play the Donegal game outside Croke Park or see that the Roscommon/Armagh games goes to Parnell Park.

The CCCC was given a bloody nose last week by Kildare and this move would go a long way in repairing that committee's reputation. They have the final say on these fixtures.

In closing the debate on the motion at the 2017 Congress, former Director General Paraic Duffy said: "Nothing that is done here today can't be undone. (It) can be changed in three years time. What are we afraid of?"

I fear that gap between the GAA executive and the grassroots is growing wider by the day, I fear that the race for Sam Maguire could be tarnished.

Donegal should fear that their actions will create a siege mentality in Jim Gavin's Dublin squad and they should fear the fact that they could reap the whirlwind but they have done everyone a favour by raising this.

The GAA shouldn't wait until the 2020 GAA Congress to rectify this.

The over-arching power the CCCC tried to exercise last week in fixing the Kildare-Mayo game for Croke Park should be used to ensure a more level playing field for all. Take Dublin out of Croke Park for one of their Super 8 games.

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