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Gavin: 'Wherever Leinster Council or GAA want us to play, we'll turn up and play'

THERE is more than a splash of irony located in the fact that, just a week after the crescendo to force Dublin to play a championship match outside of their perceived comfort-zone of Croke Park turned into the irate wails of an angry mob upon Leinster Council's disinclination to do so, the Dubs travel to that most unchartered of sporting territories for a Gaelic football match - East Belfast.

Which, to be strict, isn't entirely true.

Up until 1924, before the inaugural Ulster versus Leinster rugby match in Belfast, Ravenhill - or Kingspan Stadium for the sponsorship aware - was a GAA pitch.

Sitting down to watch the camogie girls, apparently, was the precursor to standing up for the Ulster men.

Still, there's a fair degree in symbolism attached to Saturday evening's Game for Anto at the home of Ulster rugby (6.0).


Shy of rerouting the poc fada around Windsor Park, it's as emblematic of the advances in sporting cultural relations on this island as you're likely to get.

The pitch is smaller in dimensions than your average Gaelic games 'field' so expect Stephen Cluxton and Rory Beggan to exchange frees from somewhere around halfway in Saturday's 13-a-side contest between the Dubs and an Ulster Selection.

Other than that, Dublin are coming to play, with a squad equipped to do so well, and are fully expecting an Ulster side with the same intention.

Of that decision to stick Dublin back in Croke Park for their 2015 Leinster opener against Longford or Offaly next May 31, Gavin is utterly consistent in his outlook: it's Leinster Council's call. We'll play where they tell us.

Though he can, to be fair, see what everyone gets so excited about. "I can. Absolutely," Gavin insists. "From other counties' perspectives, whether they want to have their games at home … that's absolutely understandable."

"Within Leinster Council, they've obviously made the decision to play the game in Croke Park but we've always said - and we would be true to it - that wherever Leinster Council or the GAA want us to play, we'll turn up and play."

Of the separate - but in some ways related - issue of Dublin playing their league games in at GAA HQ for a fifth successive year, Gavin reasoned: "We make a decision from our supporters perspective to play our league games in Croke Park.

"We can do that, but we have to rent out the stadium.

"Unfortunately, Parnell Park can't facilitate the crowds that want to go an watch our league games, which is a fantastic complaint to have."


Naturally, Gavin is enthused about the breaking of new ground in Ravenhill on Saturday night.

"It's an iconic rugby stadium on the island. There is a lot of symbolism," he agreed.

"The Ulster Rugby chief executive; Shane Logan, for him to open up the gates of Ravenhill and to allow the game to be played on that pitch is a testament to the great work that has been done in the North.

"The IRFU now have a strong relationship with the GAA and that has manifested itself with some international rugby games being played in Croke Park.

"Kingspan Stadium has been rejuvenated, it's a fantastic stadium," added Gavin.

"It's a smaller pitch than the GAA pitch and that will present it's own challenges to myself, looking after the Dublin team, and Joe Kernan and Brian McEniff, looking after the Ulster team.

"But there are a host of fantastic players playing for both teams so it will be great night for supporters who travel up from Dublin or come from Ulster to the game.


"We would hope that first and foremost, Dublin people will go up to support Anto," the Dublin manager added.

"Hopefully people will travel up knowing that that money for the ticket will go back into the fight against motor neuron disease."