Stats support view that Dubs have an advantage at HQ
THIS Sunday, Dublin footballers will embark on another epic journey from their DCU training base at St Clare's, wending their way down Griffith Avenue, into Drumcondra, onto the Clonliffe Road before -- eventually -- entering the familiar sanctuary of Croke Park. Home.
The fact that Dublin get to play a sizeable majority of their matches at GAA HQ has fuelled endless arguments in recent years - even more so since the inception of the 'Spring Series' saw all of Dublin's home league outings switch from Parnell Park.
This is either a blatantly unfair advantage to the Dubs (the culchie consensus) or proof that Pat Gilroy's stadium-fillers are mere pawns in a far bigger money-making machine (the capital counter-argument).
Is it possible the truth lies somewhere in between?
Dublin-based Wexford footballer Aindreas Doyle (right) threw his tuppence-worth into the debate this week, even proffering statistics to back up his assertion that the Sky Blues have a head-start every time they run onto Croke Park.
"Last year they played 14 games and played 11 of them here, between the league and the championship," said Doyle, speaking at a Leinster Council media briefing in (where else but) Croke Park.
"That would be unheard of in any other sport. If Kerry played 11 of their 14 games in Killarney, we'd see them win the All-Ireland every year," he claimed.
"Obviously there are huge monetary considerations and the GAA are making massive money when Dublin play here ... it is an advantage to them, there's no point in saying it's not."
As parliamentary secretary to Mick Wallace -- the world's most, ahem, colourful TD -- it's fair to assume that Doyle has been snowed under with work of late. But that hasn't affected his extra-curricular homework: his stats are bang on. Last year Dublin played eight league matches (the final included) and five of these were in Croker. All six SFC matches took place at the same D3 venue.
Their 'home' record was played 11, won 10, lost one (against Cork in the Division One decider). Mind you, they weren't half-bad on enemy turf either, winning in Armagh and Monaghan, drawing in Galway.
To date this year, between league and championship, Dublin have played four times on the road and four games in Croker.
Bucking the trend of 2010 and 2011, their away form has been unusually sketchy - three defeats to Down, Mayo and Cork countered by one victory in Laois.
This year's HQ 'debut' ended in rare defeat (by six points to Kerry), but they've subsequently pummelled Armagh, Donegal and Louth by a cumulative margin of 41 points (almost 14 points per game on average). A chilling statistic for all pretenders to their Leinster and All-Ireland thrones, Wexford included.
The flip side of this argument - as Gilroy underlined only yesterday - is that Dublin lost one solitary game last year and it wasn't down the sticks.
"Most other counties that you hear from are delighted to get some games at Croke Park," the Dubs boss added.
"It's where the big games are played, so playing there more often has to be a positive for us. I think it's a great place to play football. Is it an advantage? It's not our decision to put all those games there, so if it is an advantage we'll take it."
Dublin's Senior football record since launch of Spring Series
In Croker: played 15, won 13, lost 2
Out of Croker: played 7, won 3, drawn 1, lost 3
Overall: played 22, won 16, drawn 1, lost 5