Close sidebar

Should Dublin Be Taken Out Of Croke Park?

Dublin Croke Park hurling

Pre-championship, year in, year out, this debate begins. Dublin footballers play almost every game at home in Croke Park. Is it an unfair advantage and should they be moved?

Sean Cremin is here to give his take on it.

______

To get straight to the point, this writer believes that it is definitely time for Dublin footballers to be moved out of Croke Park. There are obvious pros and cons to having as many games as possible played at GAA headquarters but the time has come when everything needs to move on.

It is glaringly obvious that Dublin have a big advantage and other teams are at a disadvantage by being forced to play Dublin at their home ground, regardless of which way the draw falls. Mismatch after mismatch has been seen in Croke Park over the last number of years in front of half-empty stadiums with little atmosphere.

These occasions, or more specifically matches, are doing nothing to help GAA or the Leinster championship. The Dubs have basically had the Leinster title to themselves for the last decade, winning nine of the last ten titles. A lot of these victories came at ease and the Leinster Football Championship has had a huge lack of competition.

The championship needs to be reassessed and help needs to be given to the counties that are in a far unhealthier position than Dublin. Allowing them to play Dublin in their home grounds in a tighter field with a strong home crowd cheering them on would be a basic starting point.

Taking the Dubs out of Croke Park would lead to a return back to the older days. The Leinster championship used to be entertaining. The quality of football was very high and there was great entertainment. Everybody has to admit nowadays that it is not the case.

There are way too many games played in front of disperse crowds in Croke Park, where no colour or atmosphere is generated. Gaelic games are not all about spectacles and if the quality of games in Croke Park justified holding every game there, then this question would not be up for debate. But the quality of these games in Croke Park has been quite low.

There have been too many gulfs in quality and too many heavy beatings dished out, mainly by Dublin, but also by other teams. The Leinster Football Championship needs to go back to some of its traditional core values to help to resurrect it as a competition.

The biggest current criticism of the GAA comes back into play here, and that is money. Like plenty of other areas they need to stop thinking of cash and prioritise players and competitive competitions.

The straightforward cynical argument is that Croke Park provides a better chance for supporters to get to games. The 82,500 capacity stadium may not always be filled, but it will still allow 30,000+ to attend games, when the next highest capacity in Leinster is Portlaoise with 27,000.

But that is a far too blunt and cynical view that can only be driven by money. People may try to suggest otherwise; claiming that they want to allow as many supporters as possible to see games. But that is still a money-driven assessment of the situation.

If more fans go to games, gate receipts are higher, but the quality of games and atmosphere on show for these fans is lessened. A more balanced view needs to be met.

Take a Laois vs Dublin game for example in a Leinster quarter-final or semi-final, where Laois have been drawn first out of the hat and should be entitled to a home draw. There was a time when they may have sold out or drawn a massive crowd to Croke Park. And if this was, or is the case, then let the game be played there.

But at the moment, 35,000 would probably be a decent crowd for a game between these two sides. Now what would be a better game; 35,000 in a less then half-empty Croke Park, or a 27,000 sell-out in Portlaoise?

Portlaoise, without question.

The only people not benefiting from this game would be the Dublin team and management, the Leinster Council and the GAA’s pockets. Let them complain away.

The simple situation is that playing every game in Croke Park provides an unfair advantage to the Dubs. Playing every game in the same stadium puts a favourable gain in Dublin’s direction. The whole ‘the Dubs get everything’ argument is not the point here. But the Dubs do have major advantages for their players and supporters at the moment and the playing field should be evened out.

This writer cannot speak for all the people of Dublin, but the consensus also seems to be that Dublin want to move out of Croke Park; players and supporters. Dublin fans always talk about 1983 when they travelled to Cork for their All-Ireland semi-final replay. Dublin fans will always travel, and going to small stadiums in Leinster would benefit everyone.

There are so many positives that would occur should Dublin be moved out of Croke Park for the Leinster Championship. Firstly, it would help to revive the Leinster Football Championship. There would be more hope given to the other eleven counties should they get a chance to play the Dubs at home.

So what if a few people miss out on games. If an All-Ireland final would sell more than 82,500 tickets, should we look to playing All-Ireland finals abroad in bigger stadiums? Not a hope.

Those in charge need to look at the players and teams and not the supporters. Moving games around the province would be welcomed hugely by players and managers of all counties. The games would be a lot closer and the occasions would be far superior.

Players and managers provide the entertainment for supporters to see. They need to become the priority. Going to Croke Park year after year and losing to Dublin benefits very few people.

Moving games out of Croke Park in limited capacity stadiums would do wonders for the GAA and the Leinster Championship. Uncompetitive games in an empty Croke Park is only adding to the negative press being attributed to football at the moment. Interest in the Leinster championship is minimal and there is one very straightforward way of helping this.

Imagine the ticket scramble beginning as early as June. People doing all they can to get their hands on tickets for a game between Offaly and Dublin in Tullamore or Wexford v Dublin down in Wexford Park. There would be major hype about these games. The profile of the games would be boosted and a great occasion would commence.

One must point out that GAA, or sport in general, is not about great occasions. Winning and results are far more important to teams and individuals, but when the current circumstances are currently favouring one team out of twelve, and this team wins nine out of the last ten titles, the whole situation must be looked at and improved.

There is a very obvious and easy improvement to make. And the only thing that looks be preventing this is the euro signs that the suits may miss out on. If money is the main issue, then boost up the ticket prices for those games. Supply and demand would be so high that stadiums would sell out anyway. But the hierarchies need to start matching like with like.

Every young player dreams of gracing the turf of Croke Park when they are younger. And being a footballer or hurler in Leinster provides a great chance to do this. Croke Park should be used as much as possible, but in a scenario that provides a level playing field and enjoyable days out in Ireland’s greatest stadium.

Going up there year after year and getting hammered by Dublin is not the dreams that people have of playing in Croke Park. And the last ten years is doing very little to suggest that is going to change any time soon, if every game possible continues to be played there.

There could be great games and great days out for small places like Portlaoise, Carlow, Tullamore and even Kilkenny, if those in power in Leinster finally make the correct decision and move Dublin footballers out of Croke Park.

The benefits to players, supporters, managers, media and local economies are endless. Let’s just hope money stops talking and those who provide the entertainment are rewarded and looked after. Hopefully somebody will be brave enough to do so.

Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena

Read More About: , , , , , ,

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.