Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Donegal follow Kildare's lead with a venue protest over Dublin duel

Taking stand: Donegal boss Declan Bonner
Taking stand: Donegal boss Declan Bonner
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

There is no doubt that had Kildare not won their battle against the GAA's fixture makers, then we would never have seen the appeal that emerged from Donegal late last night.

Kildare famously won back the right to host a game in Round Three of the All-Ireland qualifiers, the Central Competitions Control Committee initially fixing their tie against Mayo for Croke Park amid what they termed 'health and safety fears' and - rather stupidly after that - sending out spokesmen to talk of potential trouble on the streets of Newbridge.

Naturally, there was no trouble. Violence in the GAA is mainly confined to inside the white lines, and they have a serious problem/incompetence in dealing with that, never mind trying to police people's behaviour on the streets. Kildare were sufficiently fired up to win a game they probably had no expectation of winning if it had been held in Croke Park.

With that as a backdrop, Donegal had already been expressing their misgivings about having to play Dublin in the first round of the Super-8s, along with Jim Gavin's men getting the benefit of another home game.

Slip up in their first two games against Dublin and the winners of Armagh v Roscommon and Donegal's final game at home against either Tyrone or Cork would be a dead rubber. It would leave you to wonder about the incentive of winning a provincial title.

So, Donegal are taking their case to City Hall.

The wording of their statement read: "C.L.G. Dhún na nGall are to seek a meeting with GAA officials to seek clarification on how any county may use a Ground as both neutral and a home venue."

Basically, if Parnell Park is the home of Dublin GAA, then why should they get the run of Croker twice?

The groundwork was already laid by former manager Jim McGuinness, who flew a flag during the middle of last week when he said: "I think it's an opportunity for Dublin and for Croke Park to do the right thing and go the same way as all the other teams.

"They're the best team in the country, they're chasing amazing goals season after season. Just play the game at home, play the game away from home and then say, 'Listen, we don't care where we play the game. Play the game at a neutral venue', and just do that and everybody will be happy.

"It helps their own legacy, it helps Jim Gavin's legacy, it helps the team's legacy and it stops people from being negative."

And then yesterday, the CCCC finally fixed the Donegal v Dublin game for Saturday, July 14 at 7pm. The first lot of games have all been set for Croke Park, to launch the series with a bang.

When the original blueprint of the new All-Ireland quarter-final group stages, now known by all as the Super-8s, was being sold up and down the island, one crucial detail was missed by almost everyone.

Each team would get a home game, a game in Croke Park and an away game.

That is until you consider Dublin. They would get two home games, starting with the first weekend of the Super-8s - when seven other teams are playing on a neutral venue, they will be at home.

Home in Croke Park, where they play all their league games and seem to get the better end of the 'four home and three away' games rule more often than not.

Where they get dressing room number one, where the variables are cut down, they have the ball boys well coached and they control their own space more than any other team.

However, some sources in Donegal would contend that when former Director-General Paraic Duffy and others visited various counties to 'sell' the idea of the Championship reform, it was presumed that one game would be played in 'neutral' territory.

Donegal know that they are onto a winner here in some ways. Deep down, they will know that they have the public sympathy and there are few outside Dublin that would argue to retain the status quo.

There is a benign resentment in general towards Dublin because it's the centre of all the concentration of public funding, jobs and gets all the attention afforded to any attractive, modern European capital city.

It's easy to tap into this, and those that work very hard in voluntary roles in the GAA have become bogeymen to be kicked at in a stampede of populism.

But the GAA could certainly make life easier for themselves.

Last week, they were accused of lacking integrity. It took a lot of back-channelling from new Director-General Tom Ryan to put things right after an ugly public fallout.

This time, it is incumbent on the GAA to be pro-active on this glitch in the system that prevents fair play.

Don't just wait for weeks of criticism and try to ride it out. Instead, be pro-active, be in charge of your own values and ideals.

But don't hold your breath.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph