Brian Barry argues that the prospect of Dublin playing a game outside of Croke Park is not up for discussion.
The old debate about whether the Dublin footballers should be made play outside of Croke Park raised its ugly head again this week. Calls that it gives the Dubs an unfair advantage fell on deaf ears, and now Jim Gavin’s side face another summer of championship action entirely on Jones’ Road.
Claims were made that playing in Croke Park gives Dublin an unfair advantage, as it is a home game. Although Parnell Park is the official home ground of Dublin GAA, this argument is somewhat merited. Last year, the Leinster Council voted 11-1 in favour of staging the first-round game between Dublin and Laois at headquarters. The one vote in favour of O’Moore Park? Laois.
So why did the ten other Leinster counties vote against Laois? One word: money. O’Moore Park has a capacity of 27,000. A crowd of 41,000 turned up for the game in June. If the Leinster Council were to put the game in Port Laoise, they would have shot themselves in the foot, and turned away 14,000 paying patrons. Admittedly Louth played Kildare in a curtain-raiser, but nonetheless there would have been a big financial hit to take the game out of Croker.
The reason why Dublin are better supported is not because Croker is more accessible to their fans. It is simply because they are drawing from a bigger population area. They would still travel in their droves elsewhere in the province, but the fact is that there is no other stadium which is capable of facilitating such numbers.
It must be stressed that these are not home games for the Dubs. The money generated from ticket sales go to the Leinster Council to develop the sport all around the province. It does not purely go to Dublin County Board. It is distributed evenly. Therefore the only argument that can be made concerns the on-field advantage gained by the Dubs in front of a large support.
In 2013, Limerick won the Munster Hurling Championship against Cork in the Gaelic Grounds. In 2014, the final was between the Treaty and the Rebels again. In accordance with the arrangement between the two county boards, the final was played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. In theory, this was a fair settlement. But a wave of support for a move to the larger arena of Semple Stadium arose. More supporters could be accommodated, and therefore it would be a more suitable venue. But the Munster Council honoured the home/away contract between the two counties, and the game was played on the banks of the Lee, much to the dismay of ticketless fans.
So in Leinster, there is a campaign to deprive fans of tickets in order to give counties a fair home advantage. However in Munster it was seen that if the GAA neglects fans, they are said to be making a mess of things. Dá mbeadh soineann go Samhain, bheadh beall ar dhuine éigin (if there were fine weather until November, there would be somebody pouting). It appears there is no winning.
At the end of the day, the Leinster Council are attempting to look after both fans and grassroots. By playing all Dublin games in Croke Park, they tick both boxes. More ticket sales amount to more money. More money leads to greater investments in development. Money makes the world go around, and the Dubs will not play outside Croke Park anytime soon.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.