It’s increasingly likely that Wexford will miss out on home advantage against All-Ireland champions Dublin in next month’s Leinster SFC quarter-final should they beat Carlow later this month, writes John Fogarty.
It has already been confirmed Carlow’s Netwatch Cullen Park’s stand is unable to cater for Dublin’s 3,000 season ticket holders and Portlaoise’s O’Moore Park has been pencilled in as the venue should they beat Wexford on their home patch on May 21.
The Leinster Council have already stipulated Innovate Wexford Park will host the quarter-final should Wexford qualify.
However, there are now several doubts the venue can take the game. Dublin’s sizeable contingent would take up almost 75% of the stadium’s 4,200-seater stand.
Wexford football season ticket holders would also be entitled to stand seats but it’s certain the majority of the home following who purchase tickets for the quarter-final would have to sit in the uncovered stand June 3 or 4.
At Wexford’s monthly county board meeting in March, county chairman Derek Kent explained the situation and revealed there would be considerably less than 1,000 stands seats available to Wexford fans after sponsors are accommodated.
As much as Wexford would love to host Dublin at their 17,000-capacity stadium, and some officials in the county are still holding onto the idea, the prospect of their support being dwarfed by the visiting fans in the stand not to mention disenfranchising them for the purpose of facilitating Dublin fans doesn’t make for a pretty picture.
It is understood the Leinster Council have discussed alternative plans and Nowlan Park could be the starting point for Dublin’s championship season for the second year running should Wexford progress.
Dublin opened up their provincial campaign there against Laois 12 months ago, much to the frustration of their opponents who believed the game should have been played at O’Moore Park.
The Leinster Council argued that O’Moore Park’s one stand was not sufficient to cater for the large crowd whereas Nowlan Park’s two stands could. It was claimed at the time that several Laois supporters boycotted the game as a result of the provincial council’s decision.
Given its proximity to Wexford, Nowlan Park would be a next best alternative should it be decided Innovate Wexford Park is unable to stage the game.
On a June Bank Holiday, Dublin’s support is sure to converge in their droves on whatever venue is chosen.
There also remains the possibility Dublin, should they as expected beat Carlow or Wexford, will play outside of Croke Park for a second successive Leinster SFC game. For the first time in eight years, there is no Leinster semi-final double-header.
Not since 2004 have Dublin played back-to-back championship matches when they played in Parnell Park, Páirc Seán MacDiarmada and O’Moore Park in qualifiers.
If it is the case that neither Leinster semi-final is played in Croke Park, excluding lower tier hurling finals, there will have been no senior inter-county GAA played in Croke Park from April 9, the date of the Division 1 final, to July 2, a gap of 12 weeks.
Dublin’s allure is undoubted but their provincial dominance has been a major factor in the dwindling attendance figures for Leinster semi-final double-headers at GAA HQ.
Last year’s Dublin-Meath, Westmeath-Kildare double bill drew 42,259 compared to 50,324 for Dublin-Kildare, Westmeath-Meath in 2015.
In 2011, the Dublin-Kildare, Wexford-Carlow games attracted over 58,000. A year before, 60,035 saw Meath shock Dublin and Louth edge out Westmeath.
From 2010 to last year, Leinster semi-final attendance figures have dropped by almost 30%.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.