Tuesday 11 December 2018

Comment: Donegal's 'Super 8' protest was too little too late

Donegal manager Declan Bonner
Donegal manager Declan Bonner

Frank Roche

IT’S not that Donegal were wrong in their assertion that Dublin playing two of their ‘Super 8’ games in Croke Park this year puts them at a clear advantage - ergo, casting the other three teams in the group – them included – at a disadvantage.

The joint statement released by Donegal and Croke Park yesterday after the two met outlined that “while Donegal challenged how any team could nominate Croke Park as their home venue, it was acknowledged that there was nothing in Rule to prohibit this”.

There was no mention of the word ‘neutral’ in the statement, like their was in Donegal’s press release last Tuesday when they announced publicly that they were seeking clarification “on how any County may use a Ground as both Neutral and a Home venue”. 

It seems somewhat inconceivable however, that given the level of preparation that went into Páraic Duffy’s ‘Super 8’ proposal, that those voting didn’t examine it closely enough to foresee the anomaly whereby Dublin would play two games in Croke Park.

Yet for all that, Donegal can feel justly aggrieved about the scheduling.

After they play Dublin tomorrow week in Croke Park (7.0), they will go away to Roscommon or Armagh, opening a possibility they could be out of the competition by the time they enjoy the comforts of a home fixtures against Cork or Tyrone.

Fair? Hardly.

This order of matches, however, was altered from the initial proposal after an objection from some weaker counties who felt the initial programme was loaded in favour of the respective provincial champions – the sort of timely objection that could have affected change on the Dublin issue.

Fairness hasn’t always been atop the GAA’s list of priorities when organising fixtures either. Ticketing, capacity and logistics have often held sway in the past although the events of the last two weeks may force a change in approach under the new regime in Croke Park.

There was, as been pointed out already this week, little outrage last summer when Ger Cunningham’s Dublin hurling team were sent to Semple Stadium, having drawn Tipperary in a qualifier for which they were entitled to a neutral venue.

The Donegal delegation that met with Tom Ryan will be acutely aware that once a motion is passed at Congress – as this one was by a 76pc majority – it is enshrined in GAA rule and requires another Congress to remove or alter.

Donegal’s request - as per the joint statement - “that a review of the first year of the new championship structures be held by Central Council ... and that all counties be invited to submit their observations,” will likely now lead to a tweak in the structure.

They may well be the county that initiates change but their action was too late to have any affect this summer.

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