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Joe Kernan: No place like home when it comes to losing matches

Not so long ago the prospect of enjoying home advantage for an Ulster Championship football game added an extra dimension to a team’s hopes of progressing in the competition. But this does not apply any more it would seem.

Three ties have been played to date in this competition and in each case the visiting side has emerged triumphant. Armagh started the ball rolling when they overcame Derry in Celtic Park, Tyrone then got the better of Antrim at Casement Park and now Down have humbled Donegal on their own patch.

I am aware that Derry had not lost a Championship match at Celtic Park since 1994 but current trends suggest that they are unlikely to enjoy such a prolonged unbeaten stint again.

The results so far surely confirm that playing at home no longer constitutes a bonus — indeed, if anything, it tends to put the host side under additional pressure.

There are many people who contend that the Ulster Championship has levelled out with no one side having a substantial start on the rest of the field in terms of winning the Anglo-Celt Cup.

That is certainly true particularly when you consider that the winning margins in all three games to date have been modest and the closeness of the matches has kept fans enthralled.

Armagh have won seven of the last 10 Ulster titles and yet they have not played a home championship match in the Athletic Grounds for the past 14 years because it is incapable of accommodating the vast army of fans that follow the team.

Clones, in fact, has become a home from home for Armagh but when the new-look Athletic Grounds is unveiled in the near future the team will then have the opportunity to parade their skills there. Question is — will they still be very much ‘at home’ with success?

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