Saturday 20 January 2018

Mourne men seeking venue review after failure to draw home comfort

Down county secretary Sean Og McAteer: 'We have a great venue and a big support but the draws haven’t been kind to us'
Down county secretary Sean Og McAteer: 'We have a great venue and a big support but the draws haven’t been kind to us'
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Down are to ask the Ulster Council to review its venue policy for championship fixtures after failing to get an automatic home game in the first round for a 17th successive season.

The last time Down were drawn at home in Newry in the first round was in 1999 when they beat Antrim.

In 2007, Down played Monaghan in the quarter-final in Newry but that only arose because they had beaten Cavan in the preliminary round.

Other than that, Down have had to rely on replays and qualifiers to host games in the 22,000-capacity Páirc Esler.

Their bad luck continued in last week's draw for the 2016 championships when they were paired with Monaghan in the quarter-final.

And since Monaghan were drawn first, they will have home advantage in Clones.

Unlike the other provinces where home-and-away arrangements apply over various seasons, each draw is treated as new in Ulster, with no reference to where teams last met.

"We haven't been very lucky - that's for sure," said Down county secretary Seán óg McAteer.

"We have a great venue and a big support but the draws haven't been kind to us. Apart from making life harder on the players and supporters, it's a big financial loss for us as well," he said.

Down are planning to raise the matter with the Ulster Council, with a view to alternating venues between counties. As it stands, one county could have home advantage indefinitely against another if they are drawn first.

Down have had four preliminary or first round games, three of which were replays, in Newry since the turn of the Millennium. It contrasts with Donegal, which has had 13 home games, followed by Fermanagh (10), Cavan (9), Derry (8), Antrim (7).

Down encountered more bad luck in 2013 when they were paired with Derry in Celtic Park in the Ulster quarter-final.

The counties were drawn again in Round 2 of the qualifiers some weeks later but because Derry came out of the drum first, they again enjoyed home advantage.

It led to a rule change so that when provincial re-matches occur in the qualifiers, the venue alternates, irrespective of who is drawn first.

It's most unfortunate for Down that they have been so unlucky in the draws and they are now hoping that it will lead to a rethink by the Ulster Council.

"We are the only county in the country to have such a fine venue and get so few championship games," said McAteer.

Irish Independent

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