OPINION: Carlow let down by Dublin fixture arrangements

Tomorrow's Leinster quarter-final will be held in O'Moore Park instead of Carlow's county grounds

OPINION: Carlow let down by Dublin fixture arrangements

©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Carlow's win over Wexford in the Leinster SFC last month marked a pivotal moment for the county.

It was their first senior win on the provincial stage since 2011 against a team that won promotion to Division 3 earlier this season.

Carlow don't tend to win fixtures of this nature, and although Wexford were of Division 4 stock just a few months ago, they had some sense of tradition behind them.

They also had players of respectable pedigree in the fold. A team that includes the likes of Ciaran Lyng, Ben Brosnan and PJ Banville might not have the sufficient power to threaten a side like Dublin, but surely they could derail Carlow?

Carlow are outcasts in the Leinster championship - one of the marginal counties who are pre-ordained to taste failure when the business end of the season kicks in.

They usually get one appearance in the provincial competition followed by whatever God's good graces allow in the qualifiers before exiting stage left.

Image: Carlow trio Paul Broderick, Eoghan Ruth and Sean Gannon celebrating their win over Wexford last month.

But in the opening round of this year's Leinster championship, Carlow didn't just come to take part, they came to win, and a Leinster quarter-final clash against Dublin was their reward.

This is not the kind of achievement that will have ESPN staff contemplating a 30 for 30 documentary, but a win like that means something to people in Carlow.

It might be the case that this is all they can afford to aspire to right now, but the experience of winning a Leinster championship game is something to savour. It brings some relief after such a lengthy drought.

Indeed, all logic suggests that their journey through the Leinster championship will end against Dublin, but bowing out of the competition against the reigning provincial, and All-Ireland champions, is an honourable way to go.

The Real Issue

In any case, the advanced quality of the opposition is not the issue. It's about the venue.

Instead of staging this game in Carlow's county pitch at Netwatch Cullen Park, it's scheduled to take place in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise tomorrow evening at 7pm.

Similar to last year, the Leinster Council have decided to put Dublin's first game of the competition at a neutral venue, rather than at the home grounds of the opposing side.

The GAA community called for Dublin to travel more for their championship games, but the chosen venues are slightly puzzling.

Ironically, O'Moore Park was at the centre of last year's controversy when it was decided that Dublin would be venturing outside the Pale for their Leinster championship clash against Laois.

Image: Former Dublin footballer Alan Brogan being chased by Longford defender Dermot Brady.

It was Dublin's first Leinster outing away from home since 2006, when they came away from Pearse Park in Longford with a narrow two-point win.

But instead of allowing Laois to host the game in O'Moore Park, fans were forced to divert to Nowlan Park in Kilkenny based on the notion that the latter could hold more people.

There's also the issue of Dublin's 3,000 season ticket-holders requiring seats at the game, and that all links back to capacity limitations.

Consequently, the bigger stadium wasn't required. Ticket sales ahead of that game were poor, and the turnout for the game was equally dismal, with only 16,764 spectators filing into the stadium.

Nowlan Park had more than enough space for the fans, but O'Moore Park has a capacity of around 18,000, which in hindsight, proves that it was also up to the task. 

Netwatch Cullen Park can take 11,000 patrons, but Carlow has a smaller overall population, so it's reasonable to argue that the crowd expected to be at tomorrow's game could comfortably fit into that venue.

O'Moore Park didn't cut the mustard last year, and yet it has been deemed the appropriate choice this year.

A strange decision, and one which leaves Carlow fans feeling a bit short-changed.

Carlow's Leinster dreams might well be crushed tomorrow under the might of the Dublin juggernaut, but shouldn't everyone be given the right to fight at home?