Laois’s Colm Begley believes Dublin would find life more difficult in the Leinster championship away from Croke Park.
Laois are likely to play the All-Ireland holders in a Leinster quarter-final next summer (if they beat Wicklow) that may be played on their home ground in Portlaoise or at Kilkenny’s Nowlan Park.
Experienced Begley, a former Australian Rules professional, stopped short of suggesting that Dublin will be vulnerable if they play their first game outside of GAA headquarters in a decade.
But he agreed with the suggestion that the team could be affected by being removed from their comfort zone on Jones’ Road where they know the pitch and surroundings intimately.
“It could have,” Begley said. “When you’re playing at Croke Park the whole time, you do get familiar with it and you do get used to the atmosphere.
“When you’re playing on a home pitch, you’re just more familiar with shooting from different angles and all that stuff. So it is a factor, but how much of a factor exactly is hard to say.
“But look, it takes away the talk that’s there. It’s probably about time they do it and take away the idea of, ‘Oh, Dublin always get Croke Park’. Once they do it, nobody can say anything about Dublin then.
“I think it is a factor at the moment, travelling to games is just different. It’s a small thing but it is a thing to get used to. So it’ll be interesting to see how it happens or where they’re playing but overall Dublin are sill the best team in Ireland and are very hard to beat, no matter what or where.”
The draw for next summer’s Leinster championship is exactly the same as 2014, where Laois are concerned, with a tie against Wicklow first up before a likely clash with Dublin.
Interestingly, a decision was taken in 2014 after Laois beat Wicklow that should the O’Moore men then draw with Dublin, the replay would be in Portlaoise.
That situation never materialised though and Dublin continued to play all their summer games at GAA headquarters.
“To have that game down in Portlaoise next year, even support wise, it would be fantastic, we’ve had a few tough enough years over the last while,” continued Begley. “So just to have them down there and to have the home crowd behind us would be massive. It’d be great for us and to then try to get some result for ourselves from it. If we could get a result from that game there, it would be huge for the county.”
Laois are under new management following the appointment of Mick Lillis, the successful Portlaoise club manager. Begley accepted that under Tomás Ó Flathárta, they failed badly to play to their potential.
“I think Laois have played great football for 20 or 30-minute spells but haven’t played a full game of good football for a long time,” the Parnells club man said.
“That’s the problem we have. Even last season, we played some good football against Kildare in the first half and then bottled it in the second half.
“That’s an issue we have at the moment, I think we just have to find out how to play a full game of good football again.” Begley was speaking at Croke Park where the GAA and Gaelic Players Association joined forces with the Movember Foundation to raise awareness of men’s health.
He was joined by Dublin hurler Mark Schutte who revealed his surprise at the departures of two of manager Ger Cunningham’s backroom team members. Shay Boland and Gearoid Ó Riain are in the process of being replaced.
“Yeah, it was a surprise,” said All Star nominated forward Schutte.
“The guys that left had made a huge contribution to the squad. Shay helped us a lot through minor and U21s, a lot of us had already had him as a coach.
“He probably just went of his own accord. We certainly didn’t feel there was anything wrong with his coaching. Gearoid then, it was work and family commitments.”
Dublin have been drawn to face Wexford in next year’s Leinster championship, with Schutte tipping Liam Dunne’s Model men to have a ‘huge year’ in 2016 after a dip this year.
It remains to be seen what personnel Dublin will have available with Conal Keaney, a father of two, tipped to retire. But Schutte said: “I don’t see why he wouldn’t stay.
“I’d be surprised if he doesn’t come back.”
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