Home Features Corry’s Corner: Croke Park Has A Key Role To Play In Super 8s Success

Corry’s Corner: Croke Park Has A Key Role To Play In Super 8s Success

Last year the line was that Croke Park shouldn’t be used on the opening weekend of the Super 8s. 

This year the line is that no Super 8s games should be held at HQ whatsoever which is a plausible idea given how crowds at smaller provincial grounds generate an atmosphere and excitement seldom seen in the modern era of Croke Park football… unfortunately.

As the old saying goes, ‘what’s seldom is wonderful’.

With one more season left before deciding whether to retain the new quarter-final systems, there’s a chance to hammer home the value of a round-robin series and the role Croke Park can play in making it a success. Whether you agree with change or not, it’s only fair that we get to see it in its truest, most impressive form before making a final decision, right?

super 8s

At the minute the overall assessment is that they haven’t been much of a success. Last seasons opening weekend failed to capture the imagination with Croke Park feeling more like a doctor’s waiting room than a historical landmark famous for some Ireland’s greatest sporting moments.

The changes in 2019 saw provincial champions awarded home advantage for phase one meaning the Croke Park weekend was moved to phase two. Again, it failed to catch fire and had it not been for Donegal and Kerry’s ding dong battle, the HQ weekend would have been chalked down as a total failure.

Leading pundits have been calling for Croke Park to be removed from the Super 8s reckoning altogether, mostly due to atmosphere and a lack of numbers (the Dublin debate is a separate issue) but Donegal and Kerry’s titanic tussle highlights that not only does Croke Park have a place in this series but that it should be saved for phase 3, the big finale.

Croke Park is there for a reason. Why have an 82,300 seater stadium if you aren’t going to use it coming down the home stretch when everything is hanging in the balance?

The situation Donegal find themselves in following that result is also worth looking at.

Declan Bonner’s side have (arguably) been the country’s most consistent team in the Championship in terms of the road travelled and teams played. What’s Donegal’s reward though? A draw against Kerry means they now face the daunting task of travelling to Castlebar to take on a rested Mayo side fresher than they have been in weeks and with a boisterous home crowd behind them.

No team should be given final day advantages, it must be played on neutral ground and given the magnitude of the game that neutral ground should be Croke Park.

The dead duck in Omagh also ties in. Most would have guessed when the fixtures were released that this game had the potential to be rendered null and void before a ball was kicked. What would fans have given to see Tyrone and Dublin go at it last weekend in Omagh when both sides had something to play for? Instead, this game was pushed out to phase 3 and the end result is that we probably won’t get to see the best of both teams.

Of course, these final day formalities are an unavoidable risk that comes with round-robin systems and it is possible that Croke Park on the final day of the Super 8s could totally underwhelm, but when weighed up against the alternatives it’s a risk worth taking.

What Croke Park offers on the final weekend is back-to-back double-headers with four sets of supporters who hopefully have a dog in each race. Imagine the boisterous Mayo crowd having to remain in Croke Park and sit through Kerry versus Donegal knowing that they need the Kingdom to do them a favour.

It could potentially come down to all eight teams going into a final round with something to play for. Imagine if we had two days of that drama in Croke Park. We seem to get it every year in hurling, why can’t football have it too?

What’s seldom really is wonderful!

___.

Corry’s Corner – Alternative Super 8s 

 

Phase 1

Home advantage granted to provincial winners.

Super 8s Group 1

Kerry v Mayo, Fitzgerald Stadium.

Donegal v Meath, MacCumhail Park.

Super 8s Group 2

Dublin v Cork, Croke Park.

Roscommon v Tyrone, Dr Hyde Park.

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Phase 2 

Home advantage granted to teams entered via qualifiers.

Super 8s Group 1

Mayo v Donegal, MacHale Park.

Meath v Kerry, Páirc Tailteann.

Super 8s Group 2

Cork v Roscommon, Páirc Uí Rinn.

Tyrone v Dublin, Healy Park.

___

Phase 3

Finale weekend at Croke Park

Super 8s Group 1

Kerry v Donegal, Croke Park.

Meath v Mayo, Croke Park.

Super 8s Group 2

Cork v Tyrone, Croke Park.

Dublin v Roscommon, Croke Park.

 

 

About Michael Corry

Sports Journalist based in Dublin. Hit me up if you have a unique story to tell. Email: michael@punditarena.com Twitter: @Corry_10 Instagram: @Corry_10