Monday 16 September 2019

Why Dublin could play one less championship game in 2020

Seán O'Shea of Kerry in action against Brian Fenton of Dublin
Seán O'Shea of Kerry in action against Brian Fenton of Dublin
Leinster GAA chairman Jim Bolger said the proposal was being discussed again with a view to giving counties more preparation in advance of a meeting with the province’s champions (stock photo)
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Dublin could play a game less in next year's championship if a fresh proposal to give the Leinster champions a bye into a semi-final is carried over the next few weeks.

Leinster secretaries will meet on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of putting the champions through to the penultimate stages of the provincial championship.

If the feedback from that body is favourable then a full Leinster Council meeting would, more than likely, clear the way for it to happen by the end of the month.

The idea was previously floated by then provincial chairman and now GAA president John Horan.

Horan was speaking after Dublin demolished Longford in the opening round of the 2015 championship, their first game in the current push for five successive All-Ireland titles.

But later that year the idea was shelved because the majority of counties, including Dublin, opposed it. Since then their dominance has become even more pronounced and their average winning margin through their nine-season unbeaten run in Leinster, dating back to 2011, is 14 points.

Leinster GAA chairman Jim Bolger said the proposal was being discussed again with a view to giving counties more preparation in advance of a meeting with the province's champions. The province's competition controls committee was broadly supportive when discussing the idea recently.

Dublin's winning margins in their last two Leinster quarter-finals against Wicklow and Louth have been 23 and 26 points respectively. But in the previous two years, Carlow and Laois pushed them harder, losing by 12 and 11 points respectively.

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Development

Earlier this year Dublin were granted a bye into the Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup semi-final as it overlapped their team holiday and they were fielding development squads under Paul Clarke.

The financial benefit of having Dublin in a quarter-final is no longer what it once was, though the benefits to the towns where they play is still felt. Since their opening game of the championship has been taken out of Croke Park, attendances have continued to drop.

There were 16,764 in Nowlan Park when they played Laois in 2016, a year later that was down to 13,238 for Carlow in Portlaoise and 11,786 for Wicklow at the same venue in 2018.

This year, Leinster GAA were able to facilitate Dublin and Meath on a Saturday evening double bill with 14,380 turning up as the champions put Louth to the sword.

Leinster have taken a similar path with their hurling championship.

A decade ago, when Galway and Antrim contested the province for the first time, Kilkenny, as champions, were given a bye into the Leinster semi-final. This remained in place, even when a preliminary competition was added until the round-robin was introduced last year.

Under the proposal being discussed, Dublin would go straight into a semi-final while Longford, Carlow, Wexford, Wicklow, Louth, Offaly and Westmeath would all constitute 'bowl one' and would play in preliminary quarter-finals where they would be joined by one of the other 2019 semi-finalists.

Meath, Kildare and Laois are drawn from 'bowl two.' Two of that trio would still go straight into the quarter-finals.

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