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Thursday 21 November 2019

Time for Super 8s switch

Even Dubs would favour a road trip over the 'zero atmosphere' enveloping Croker

LACK OF ATMOSPHERE: A lone Dublin supporter inspects the programme prior to the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Group 2 Phase 2 match at Croke Park on Saturday. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
LACK OF ATMOSPHERE: A lone Dublin supporter inspects the programme prior to the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Group 2 Phase 2 match at Croke Park on Saturday. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

IT seems like we have reached a point where Dublin GAA stakeholders - players, management, commentators, even supporters - would gladly settle for two trips to the sticks in high summer.

Not just because it would silence the talk of Dublin's competitive advantage, whereby Croke Park doubles as their neutral and home venue for the Super 8s, giving them two out of three games in their favourite stomping ground.

But also because a venue that used to be rocking for every single Sky Blue championship odyssey - back when they couldn't win Sam - has morphed into a cavernous amphitheatre devoid of atmosphere.

So it was in Croker on Saturday evening. The double-header attendance was 36,530. A mere fraction of this number was present for the Tyrone/Cork throw-in. It was better on Sunday (48,723 attended the second Super 8s double-header) but it's telling that all eight teams left in the race attracted just over 85,000.

In other words, theoretically, all four could almost have been squeezed into the one 82,300 arena.

Back when Paul Caffrey was Dublin manager, full-house signs were a regular feature of the summer landscape. Pointing out that Dubs "love an auld journey", he now reckons the time has come to give them another by switching the entire 'neutral' Super 8s round to provincial venues.

As Caffrey remarked yesterday: "It's nothing to do with Dublin being dominant, but I just think that the stadium in there is not suited to 30 or 40,000. There's zero atmosphere in there.

"Like, when the ball was thrown in between Cork and Tyrone, was there 6,000 people in the stadium? It was actually awful. And it didn't get much better until well into the second half.

Love

"We all love going to stadiums, whether it's Parnell Park with 10,000 in it or going down to Portlaoise with 25,000 in it, or Tullamore or Navan."

There may be a issue with premium ticket customers being guaranteed a minimum number of games at HQ, he pointed out.

But surely the bigger picture should trump that every time?

As Pillar concluded: "Leaving aside that it is an advantage to Dublin - and anyone that says it isn't isn't telling the truth, it absolutely is an advantage to Dublin - but from the game's point of view, that neutral game needs to go to a provincial venue. There's enough of them around to spread it around."

The other point about Saturday's attendance, of course, is the curious fact that greatness can be a crowd turn-off.

Back in February, county board CEO John Costello launched a forceful (and successful) counter-argument to Donegal's Congress motion seeking to move one of Dublin's Super 8s games out of Croke Park. At the time, Costello estimated that Dublin's core support was 35,000.

But when your winning margin there is now closer to 20 points than 10, even diehards can become choosy while neutrals simply stay at home.

 

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