Sunday 17 December 2017

Time to move Dubs out of Croker comfort zone

Provincial ties at neutral venues would give minnows fair shout and add to atmosphere

Dublin fans at Croke Park
Dublin fans at Croke Park

Colm Parkinson

In sport, why is home advantage called home advantage? What exactly is the advantage gained? In my playing experience many factors contributed to benefit the home team.

The home support, familiarity with the ground, the absence of arduous travel, sleeping in my own bed the night before the game and a familiar routine the day of the game all added up to help playing and preparation.

A quick look at the Premier League table this season shows an obvious advantage for teams playing at home. Manchester City have won 14 out of 15 home games in comparison to eight out of 17 away. Similarly, Chelsea have won 15 out of 17 home games but only eight out of 17 away from home.

All 20 teams have a vastly superior home record than on their travels.

According to a study by Emmet Ryan and Ciaran Ruane of 'Action 81', the trend is similar for Gaelic football teams in the National League.

From 2006-10 there were 583 games played in the Allianz Football League, excluding finals played in neutral venues. Of these 326 (56pc) were won by the home team compared to 212 by away teams (36pc) and there were 45 draws (8pc). The county with the most dramatic variance between home and away performance was Offaly who won 79pc of home games and just 2pc away.

At the other end, Monaghan's win-percentage was less than half a percentage point better at home than away. Monaghan play many of their home games in Clones, a venue used extensively by other teams in Ulster championship matches, so factors such as familiarity with the ground and a familiar routine are more even.

In the study every county proved superior to some degree at home in terms of wins and losses.

Since the advent of the Spring Series, in 2011, the Dubs have played all their home league games at Croke Park. As some counties forfeit home advantage and play in Croke Park, for various reasons, Dublin often enjoy five out of eight league games at headquarters.

We know all of Dublin's championship games are played at Croke Park. Therefore, it is impossible to argue that, since 2011, Croke Park hasn't been Dublin's home ground.

Why should Dublin enjoy the advantage of playing at home, especially now they have the most talented squad in the country?

My own county, Laois, play Wicklow in the first round of this year's Leinster championship. The winners play Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final. Where? You guessed it, Croke Park.

Players love playing in Croke Park. The novelty and experience of playing the Dubs in Croker is special, and one I will never forget.

But after experiencing how difficult it is to beat Dublin there the novelty soon wears off. Winning is more important than playing in Croke Park.

Laois or Wicklow's chances at a neutral venue against Dublin would improve dramatically and the atmosphere the travelling Dublin supporters would bring would really add to the sense of occasion for an otherwise dull Leinster quarter-final.

I have no problem with Dublin playing at Headquarters for Leinster finals and every game thereafter. But for NFL semi-finals and Leinster championship matches they should have to travel like every other county.

Oh, and how about the Dublin County Board using their considerable wealth to build a decent-sized county ground to cater for their sizeable support and get out of Croke Park for the league too.

Irish Independent

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