Dubs in Croker debate: Is it fair Blues play all their home games in HQ?
Offaly boss not buying Leinster defence
THE rumbling controversy over Dublin footballers' permanent summer residency in Croke Park was reopened yesterday as the Leinster Council launched its senior inter-county championships.
Leinster chairman John Horan, himself a Dub, staunchly defended his council's policy of staging every provincial SFC match involving Dublin at HQ, declaring it not a matter of maximising finances but a "matter of common sense."
Horan also revealed Leinster was "contracted" to stage a minimum of four days each year at headquarters.
But Offaly football manager Pat Flanagan, attending the same launch at Farmleigh, was having none of it.
"When you play Dublin in Croke Park in every game, it's not a fair competition any more," insisted Flanagan, whose Faithful charges - if they get over Longford on Saturday week - must tackle Dublin in a ground that has housed every Sky Blue SFC outing since a Leinster opener in Longford nine years ago.
Meanwhile, Jim Gavin repeated his familiar line that Dublin have "always played where we're told to play."
In his address, Horan said Leinster will stage 22 games this summer and just six in Croke Park. "Again this year we had the clamour to take the big matches out of Croke Park. The fact is that we are contracted to have a minimum of four days each year at Headquarters," he revealed.
"It makes no sense to me to move games to a venue that may not accommodate all those who wish to attend. There would also be implications for concessions in such situations, in that we would not be able to offer any."
Staging games in Croker gave Leinster "better opportunities" to look after old and young fans, plus families. "I see no point in potentially locking people out of games while ample capacity lies unused elsewhere," he concluded.
"I wouldn't always agree with what he says," was Flanagan's pithy response.
Stressing that Dublin have a "distinct advantage" that isn't the fault of Gavin or his players, the Offaly manager said: "They (Leinster) may be able to make comments here and hide behind it but genuinely, for the progress of counties like Offaly, Longford and a number of other counties, to be playing Dublin in Dublin when they play all their home matches there is a very difficult scenario."
Is it down to money? "You can put 16,000 - I think - into Tullamore," he replied. "You can play a double-header with Dublin footballers and Dublin hurlers the day we're playing, if we manage to get over Longford, and maybe put 60,000. The decision is a fairly easy one to make from a financial point of view."
But he added: "It's supposed to be a fair competition. And to be totally honest, I'm probably putting my neck on the line here, but when you play Dublin in Croke Park in every game, it's not a fair competition any more.
"Laois and Offaly would either be in Portlaoise or Tullamore; Westmeath and Offaly, it would be in Mullingar or Tullamore; Offaly and Longford, it's going to be in Pearse Park or Tullamore. So why is that not applied to every county in Leinster?
"If that was applied, would Dublin be as successful as they are? Possibly would be. But having said that, from a playing point of view and from a financial resource point of view, for the other counties, there would be a huge benefit going forward."
Gavin said he wasn't aware of Leinster's contractual obligations but reiterated that his team has no problem leaving its Jones's Road citadel.
"We've had seven games on the road this year, all very enjoyable," he said of Dublin's O'Byrne Cup and league travels. "You get to spend a lot of time with the players, more so than just turning up and going to a game in Croke Park."
When it was put to him that it wouldn't be such an issue if Dublin were less dominant, he accepted: "That's one hypothesis - that's true, yeah."
Leinster championship launch