It’s that Friday feeling time again, with our match against the Dubs to look forward to tomorrow night. It’s our first outing at HQ since last September whereas the Dubs are, of course, in almost permanent residence there.
Here’s a thought for you now (one that came to me on the bike one morning recently, as I began to hallucinate at around the 40 km mark) – seeing as the Dubs get to play every single championship match at home, shouldn’t this be balanced by making them to play all their League matches away? Mad, I know, but no madder surely than giving them permanent home advantage for all championship fixtures at a stadium they didn’t have to pay for, where they’re always given the same dressing room and always get to warm up in front of the Hill? Just a thought, as Sean Rice says in his column.
Right, back to more pressing matters, where our selection announced yesterday morning appears to be giving Jim Gavin a bit of thought about what team he’ll select for tomorrow night. The Irish Examiner presents Gavin’s team selection decision in an uncharacteristically tabloid fashion by claiming that Dublin are in the throes of a “mini injury crisis” which has the holders in “disarray” ahead of tomorrow night’s match.
De Paper doth protest too much, methinks. Not much has changed in relation to player availability for Dublin over the past few weeks (aside from the consequences of Philly McMahon’s uppercut on Derry’s Mark Lynch last Sunday) and, if anything, they’re in a better place player-wise compared to the Derry game. James McCarthy and Kevin McManamon are okay to play (and both should start) having missed the trip to Celtic Park, the Vincents lads are on standby if needs be (it’s interesting to see, by the way, that Vincents’ wing-back Michael Concarr has been called into the county panel – about time too, he’s a seriously good player), Bernard Brogan may – according to today’s Irish Times – be sprung from the bench at some point and, as this piece in today’s Irish Independent confirms, Gavin hasn’t ruled out using a few of his U21 contingent either. This doesn’t sounds like an injury crisis to me.
Dublin are due to name their team after training at some point this evening. I’d say their starting fifteen will have around seven or eight of the team that lined out for them last September but in addition they’re also likely to field O’Gara, McManamon and Daly (who all featured in the All-Ireland) as well as the rejuvenated Alan Brogan. The big issue they have is their backline but that, arguably, was an issue for them all last year too even if the current model – possibly augmented tomorrow night by the return of full-back Rory O’Carroll – does look shakier than usual.
That’s enough about the opposition. Another pressing matter is the issue of those malfunctioning ticket scanners, which has been the subject of debate here and elsewhere over the past week and the facts on which have now been pulled together in this excellent article on the Club ’51 site. Anne-Marie at Club ’51 has played an absolute blinder on this issue, to the extent that the powers-that-be have now softened what was up till then an incredibly obdurate and customer-unfriendly stance in response to the genuine grievances being raised by season ticket holders about match attendances not being recorded at MacHale Park for the Cork game.
I think all genuine, hard-core fans (for whom the season ticket is such a godsend) will get the point about the need to protect the integrity of the system in recording attendances so that this isn’t undermined by those seeking to get attendances recorded for matches they weren’t at or by individuals trying to get multiple tickets scanned on entry. Of at least equal (and, to my mind, far greater) importance, however, is the need for season ticket holders to have confidence that the attendance recording system actually works because if it’s shown that it doesn’t then pretty soon the GAA will find they won’t have too many season ticket punters (fraudulent or otherwise) to be worrying about in the first place.
What I can’t fathom is their position that even if the machine beeps when the ticket is scanned, this doesn’t necessarily mean your attendance has been captured. This, surely, is nonsense – either the bloody machines work or they don’t. Similar ones operate in places like Tesco when you’re buying your porridge – where you’re never left in some kind of Kafka-esque middle ground in which you don’t know if the transaction has been recorded or not – and there’s simply no good reason why they shouldn’t be able to get their scanners to operate properly at MacHale Park, in a manner that season ticket holders can be 100% confident that their attendance has been properly logged on entry.
At the very least, this means that punters holding season tickets are likely to face longer than usual queues getting into MacHale Park on Sunday week as those holding the Croke Park tickets (recording attendance isn’t an issue for Cairde Mhaigheo tickets) will understandably want to make sure (and I’m still not clear how they’re going to be able to do this) that their tickets have been scanned properly. At least in Tesco you know you won’t make it out the door of the place without being collared if your packet of porridge hasn’t scanned correctly.
Anyway, hats off to Club ’51 for fighting the good fight on this issue. Apart from anything else, it’s proof positive, were this needed, of the value of a for-fans-by-fans initiative such as this. Their pre-match meet-up for tomorrow night’s game, by the way, is set to take place in the Jury’s Croke Park Hotel on Jones Road, straight across from the stadium, from 4.30pm or thereabouts.