Sunday 21 January 2018

Counties should be consulted about taking Dubs out of Croke Park

Dublin players, Paul Flynn and Cian O'Sullivan, celebrate with the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final, Dublin v Derry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Dublin players, Paul Flynn and Cian O'Sullivan, celebrate with the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final, Dublin v Derry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

A lot of people seem to be getting worried about the power of Dublin football. Scare stories about the potential domination of the county in the Leinster and All-Ireland championships seem to be upsetting people, with fears that if Dublin continue to dominate at senior and under-age level, it will be bad for the game as a whole.

Some of the comments seem to almost reflect panic stations about the game.

However, a sense of proportion is badly needed regarding Dublin GAA teams before wild assertions become accepted as actualities.

Dublin have won 24 All-Irelands. But 14 were won before 1924 when a lot of other counties were not well organised and even Kerry had only five All-Irelands by the same date.

In those times nearly all the football stars from other counties who lived and worked in Dublin declared for the Sky Blues, thereby providing a huge selection of talent. Indeed, in Dublin's win in 1942 a batch of great Kerry players and a Longford man played for Dublin, ironically, against Kerry.

In the last 90 years Dublin have won just 10 All-Irelands, in the last 50 years it was eight wins and in the last 30 years since 1983 they have won just three titles.

So, whatever about the future, Dublin has never dominated the All-Ireland championship over the last 90 years and if history is worth anything, they are unlikely to take over from Kerry for a while yet.

Having said that, if we examine the past few seasons, things could be changing. Dublin won in 2011 and 2013, but lost narrowly to Mayo in the semi-finals in 2012.

Had Dublin won that game (and the final), they could now be heading for four-in-a-row.

I don't know if Jim Gavin is the sort of man who harbours secret ambitions which drive him on, but if he is, he must surely – in his dreams at least – think occasionally of managing the first team to win five successive All-Irelands and what a coup that would be for the Dubs, knowing that Kerry were on the verge of achieving that twice, but failed in 1933 (semi-final) and 1982 (final).

But back to reality now. There is no guarantee that even if Dublin are the best team in the land for several years to come they will collect Sam Maguire year after year.

Quite simply sport, including Gaelic football, does not work that way. There are numerous variables in winning a championship and, if even a few of those work against a team, they can lose. After all, in the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry, everything that could possibly go right for Dublin did so, including borderline decisions that produced the final free which Stephen Cluxton kicked to win the game.

There is a whole string of variables that can change a game and, for one day at least, allow a team to win against better-equipped opponents.

A missed free, a wasted penalty, a black or red card at the wrong time, an injury before or during a game to the most important player, a gale force wind that can make a mockery of a game – it goes on and on.

Not even a Jim Gavin or a Mickey Harte can control all of these possibilities and for that, the men and women in the street are eternally grateful.

There is once again loose talk about dividing Dublin into two senior teams to level the playing field. That is a complete non-starter unless the Dublin County Board in the future decide it would be to the benefit of Dublin GAA and there are two chances of that happening.

But there is one contributing factor to Dublin's success that is realistic and could possibly come into play.

Dublin now play all their championship games in Croke Park, six games in all if they go all the way. There is no doubt in the world that this is an advantage to Dublin and I doubt if any genuine Dubs fan would deny it.

There is scope for the Leinster Council to play at least one and possibly two Dublin games outside Dublin as a gesture to fairness.

The reason this has not happened since Dublin went to Pearse Park to play Longford in 2006 is money. To bring Dublin to any provincial venue would probably see the Leinster Council drop over €250,000 in gate receipts.

SACRIFICE

So, it would be up to the delegates from the 12 Leinster counties to decide if compromising their cash cow was a financial sacrifice worth making. Taking such a decision to play Dublin outside Croke Park should not be seen as simply a way of lessening their chances of winning a particular game, because in most cases that would not even achieve that.

No, it is the fact that the best team in Leinster and possibly in Ireland is rarely seen playing in any of the other 11 Leinster counties.

In 2015, for example, Dublin will be the only Leinster county in Division 1 of the league, meaning that the Dubs will play no league or championship game in Leinster outside of the capital in 2015. That does not seem right, does it?

Now it may well be that the various sets of county players actually WANT to play in Croke Park against Dublin, regardless, and, if so, that finishes that debate.

But why not consult with these county teams and find out?

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