Friday 24 January 2020

Counties hit hard by loss of home comforts

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

COUNTIES who lose home advantage for Allianz League games due to discipline breaches are reducing their prospects of winning by more than one-fifth.

Results across the four NFL divisions for the last two years show that the win-lose split averaged out at 61pc-39pc in favour of the home team. That's a significant difference, underlining the extent of the advantage enjoyed by teams playing on familiar territory.

There's already an inherent inequality built into the League system as all counties don't have the same home-away split in a season because the programme in the top three divisions features seven games per team. The GAA attempts to ensure that counties get a 4-3 split in alternate seasons although, quite often, it doesn't work out in practice because of movement between divisions.

Monaghan and Cork were the first to be hit by the new punishment regime, having been ordered by the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) to travel to Drogheda and Portlaoise respectively for their games against Louth and Laois on the weekend of March 10/11.

Monaghan and Cork were originally recommended for a €5,000 fine by the Central Competitions Control Committee but opted to take their case to the CHC, who replaced the financial sanction with the loss of home advantage for one game.

Kildare and Armagh were also fined €5,000 and had planned to bring their cases to the CHC, but withdrew when they learned that Monaghan had lost home advantage for their clash with Louth.

The home-away percentage win split in the NFL over the past two years was virtually identical in Division 1 (59pc-41pc), Division 2 (60pc-40pc) and Division 4 (59pc-41pc), but was more pronounced at 67pc-33pc in Division 3.

Laois were the big winners from the recent CHC ruling as it gives them a fifth home tie from a seven-game programme. They have already played Mayo in Portlaoise and will also host Dublin, Cork, Armagh and Down, leaving them with just one more away game against Kerry on March 25.

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It's a major plus as they attempt to consolidate their Division 1 status after being promoted last year.

Meanwhile, Stephen O'Neill has emerged as a major doubt for Tyrone's NFL clash with Louth on Sunday.

Midfielder Aidan Cassidy is also struggling for fitness ahead of their Division 2 visit to Drogheda.

Both players had to go off during the win over Derry last month, and are still some way off full fitness.

Former Footballer of the Year O'Neill has a hamstring strain, while Cassidy suffered a slight tear of a quad muscle.

Irish Independent

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