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14th May 2018

Wicklow disappointed that GAA wouldn’t give them a home tie against Dublin

Jack O'Toole

Dublin’s senior football team are aiming for a seventh consecutive All-Ireland senior football championship and a fourth straight All-Ireland title.

The Dubs will open their Leinster Senior Football Championship defence this year against Wicklow after their neighbours advanced to the quarter-finals after a 1-20 to 1-15 victory over Offaly in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, last weekend.

The venue, which holds 27,000 at capacity, has been confirmed for Wicklow’s quarter-final with Dublin despite Wicklow GAA requesting that the match be relocated to Joule Park Aughrim which has a capacity of 10,000.

Wicklow GAA were disappointed that the GAA failed to facilitate their request and they released a lengthy statement on their Facebook page to bemoan the decision.

Wicklow claimed that hosting the match at Joule Park would help close the chasm between the two sides, which, bookmakers currently rate at 24 points. For those that don’t bet, they predict Wicklow are going to get a hiding.

Wicklow GAA said in a statement on the decision to keep the quarter-final at O’Moore Park:

“Nothing to lose, everything to gain!

“Wicklow are delighted to have a Leinster championship win under our belts, our first since 2013 and we look forward to our quarter final meeting with the reigning Leinster and All-Ireland champions Dublin at the end of May. Portlaoise yesterday was as always, a welcoming and accommodating venue.

“Indeed, Dublin are seeking an 8th Leinster title in a row and a 4th All-Ireland on the trot under Jim Gavin and are quite rightly being spoken of as possibly the best squad of players ever to play the game. They also are the reigning league champions and while they finished top of the pile our Wicklow team plied its trade in the lower reaches of Division 4.

“To many this seems a mismatch and few would argue with Wicklow having home venue to close the chasm somewhat. We are the Underdogs.

“The gap between these two on the field is clearly massive but off the field Wicklow has many passionate followers and also a generation of young people who needed to see the best ever GAA team at first hand in Joule Park.

“Wicklow needs these youngsters to be inspired, to dream that they too someday may have a day like this in their careers. Wicklow needed a Dublin to come to Joule Park, the local economy would love it too.

“A GAA crowd are big spenders and leave a sizeable chunk of cash behind them wherever they go. Aughrim and surrounding areas would be buzzing for the weekend, the atmosphere created inside and outside the ground would be memorable. It would be intangible to Wicklow GAA.

“The Wicklow players of today also deserved the reward of home venue, being part of the first Wicklow team to face the reigning All-Ireland champions in a championship game is an honour. They have worked hard under John Evans and his management team against all the odds to get some recognition for their efforts. Would home advantage be seen as some sort of leveller?

“Wicklow GAA works hard to train Event management staff and stewards for days like this. They too deserve the chance to host a game that will bring a big crowd. Just last November Dublin champions St Vincents were in Joule Park and apart from the result there were no complaints from them as to how the event was handled on the day.

“Big crowds are always a welcome sight. We have also hosted Galway and Donegal in Aughrim in qualifiers with large crowds and handled the event without bother.

“Hosting and consistently playing against the best is the only way the gap between the top and bottom will ever close. For Wicklow to believe that they could someday make the ‘Super 8’s’ they needed somebody to believe in them.

“What happens if one of the perceived ‘weaker’ counties ever did make it to the ‘Super 8’ stage. Would their ‘Home’ game in that section of the championship remain a ‘Home’ game and not be farmed out to a Provincial venue?

“Dublin will probably win both the Leinster and All-Ireland titles again. Wicklow will get the chance to test themselves against the best on the field but sadly not off the field.

“The players will work hard and play wherever they are asked to play, the fans will travel as they did yesterday to support the team wherever the games are played but every now and again the players, supporters, coaches,stewards and shopkeepers would like to welcome footballing royalty to our home.

“See you all in Portlaoise.”

Wicklow squad member Conor Healy and pundit Tomás Ó Sé both backed a relocation to Aughrim.

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