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Donegal motion to stop Dublin using Croke Park as home venue in Super 8s beaten at GAA Congress

Donegal’s attempt to ensure Dublin can’t play two Super 8 games in Croke Park was soundly beaten at Congress in Wexford this lunchtime, receiving just 36%.

Without naming Dublin, Donegal chairman Mick McGrath said it was unfair that Croke Park couldn’t be deemed both a home and a neutral venue for a team and had generated an advantage for those who get more used of the stadium.

Opposing the motion, Dublin secretary John Costello said that 8,500-capacity Parnell Park would have been the home venue for the county had it passed. He conservatively estimated Dublin’s core support was 35,000 and highlighted how many would be excluded were their Super 8 home game to take place in Parnell Park.

“Nobody cried foul,” added Costello when Dublin’s senior footballers weren’t successful as they are now. He also stressed the damaging financial repercussions of turning supporters away.

Turning on Donegal, he slammed the motion as “divisive” and said it was the first time in his time coming to Congress since the late 1970s that he can remember a county being targeted.

Former GAA president Seán Kelly condemned Donegal’s proposal as a negative one and said Dublin’s opponents should aspire to beating them in Croke Park. Wexford delegate Tony Dempsey said Croke Park belong as much to him as it did to Dublin. Meath’s assistant treasurer Francis Flynn said the motion could also impact other counties whose home venues mightn’t be available to them.

Donegal’s Seamus O’Donnell said there were advantages for Dublin playing so many games in Croke Park and added: “We don’t expect to play two Super 8 games in MacCumhaill Park.” Responding to Kelly, he said Donegal were the last team to beat Dublin in the Championship, which took place in Croke Park - “We’re not afraid of any team.”

He concluded: “Are we interested in finance or fairness?”

In his Congress address, GAA president John Horan called on the Club Players Association to put forward their own proposals for the fixtures programme. “The emergence of the CPA is in response to difficulties and frustrations that have existed around club fixtures. I do not question their intentions.

"But I would put it to them that we need to see them submit a more detailed sample of how they would propose to fill the blank canvass on fixtures which they talk about to further enhance debate on the challenge around fixtures. We want solutions.

He added: “In talking about club fixtures, we have tried in the past to look at fitting the club championship season into the calendar year and it hasn’t happened. Perhaps we were overly ambitious in our approach.”

As the central fixtures analysts committee propose all the All-Ireland club finals be played in early January, Horan has suggested March 17 may now be a day to promote hurling. “St Patrick’s Day could be used for Allianz Hurling League fixtures such as the staging of a semi-final double bill to celebrate our unique game.”

As reported by the Irish Examiner, Horan confirmed a study would take place into how Gaelic players have fared in returning from AFL careers. “Through our player welfare department, I have asked for a detailed audit of the experience of these players who play or have played AFL and see what lessons can be learnt and adapted so that any future young players looking at making that step are as educated and prepared as possible.  We will shortly return to the AFL for discussions and hope they make changes to give greater support to our young players.”

In defending the work done by the GAA’s playing rules committee in putting forward their experimental rules for Gaelic football, Horan takes aim at negative football: "Football is very much a possession-based game with a primacy placed on depriving the opposition oxygen by denying them time on the ball. This means that the gamble of allowing man on-man contests are far less than before.

“However, the overuse of the hand-pass and the long passages of play without no forward progression, are two aspects of the game that challenge its long-standing allure.”

He continued: “Defending is one of the great skills of our games but not when it comes at the expense of a team having an attacking platform to threaten at the opposite end of the field."