Thursday 22 August 2019

Home rule? Works well for others but not for Derry

Celtic Park in Derry. Photo: Sportsfile
Celtic Park in Derry. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Do not tell Derry footballers that playing at home is an advantage as they have the grim stats to show that it hasn't applied in their case.

They may even be pleased that their clash with Tyrone is in Omagh on Sunday, as Celtic Park has provided them with very little comfort.

Remarkably, they were drawn at home for their opening Ulster Championship game for the last six seasons, during which they won only once.

That was against Down in 2015, but otherwise it was disappointment all the way as they lost to Donegal (2014 and 2018), Tyrone (2016-2017) and Down (2013). And their misery in Celtic Park continued against Kildare in the qualifiers last summer.

Derry's 'luck of the draw' for home venues is unparalleled in Ulster, having enjoyed it no fewer than nine times in ten seasons (2009-2018)


Along with Derry, Cavan have been the other luckiest county for home draws in the Ulster Championship over the last ten years, with eight of their first round games in Kingspan Breffni Park. They are at home again this year, hosting Monaghan on Sunday week.

Fermanagh, who play Donegal in Enniskillen on May 25, have had seven home first round games in ten years.

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Down, in contrast, have had only three, having gone without any for many years before beginning a three-in-a-row sequence in 2017.

Armagh will be away for a fourth successive year as they pursue their first Ulster victory since 2014. They have a 4-6 'home and away' split over ten years, as have Tyrone.

It's 6-4 for Donegal, 5-4 for Monaghan (one game was at a neutral venue) while Antrim haven't had a home game since 2013, the year Casement Park closed.

Connacht and Munster operate on an alternate basis, with venues decided by the previous meeting between the counties. It's a more equitable system as it's not dependent on who comes out of the draw drum first.

Some Leinster counties have home-and-away arrangements for first round and quarter-final ties before returning to Croke Park for the semi-finals and finals. Kildare are the only Leinster county who get no home games in their provincial championship.

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