Home and away fixtures in a sporting context is an international concept, based on fairness and equity. It should not be something even up for discussion. If a team plays away one weekend, and has to play the same team six days later, they should surely, based on any loose interpretation of natural justice, be granted a home fixture.
However the Galway hurlers, who have not won a senior All-Ireland title since 1988 (27 years and counting ), and have only won one Leinster championship title ever, have not been allowed that arrangement since they joined the Leinster championship in 2009. In the seven years they have played in that provincial championship, all their games have been played in Leinster venues.
Last Sunday they drew with Dublin in Croke Park and yet this Saturday evening the replay has again been fixed for the Leinster venue, Tullamore. How fair is that?
Surely in a more equitable arrangement, the game would have been fixed for Pearse Stadium. Is it reasonable and fair that Galway hurling supporters are always the ones expected to travel to championship games in the Leinster championship. Surely many of the Dublin hurling supporters would have been happy to travel west this Saturday and perhaps have a night away too.
How equitable is it for the Galway team? Galway could badly do with home advantage against a team they have never beaten in five senior championship clashes - Dublin won four and drew one. Is it fair that last Sunday evening the Dublin players were in the recovery pool in DCU less than an hour after the game, while the Galway players were probably just sitting down to their post match meal and still had a few hours travel get home? Which team does that disadvantage?
Galway team manager Anthony Cunningham acknowledges that home advantage would be a huge boost for his team and in the future he would like to see it happening. “I’m not going to make an issue of it now. However, we need to have a home-and-away basis in Leinster. I suppose we need to be embraced properly into Leinster. Galway need Championship hurling in Galway. It’s something for the future. It’s something I thought might have happened by now. While it is not going to change this year, it is an issue that needs to be addressed for 2016."
Galway county board chairman Noel Treacy has now called on Leinster counties to engage in home and away arrangements with them "in the interests of fairness and equity" and cross the Shannon to play championship hurling in the future. He says they will revisit the issue later this year. Leinster Council have relaxed the proviso that all games involving Galway and Antrim (Who have now dropped out of the Liam McCarthy Cup after this year ) must be played in Leinster, initially a condition of their acceptance into the province in 2009. But so far no county has been willing to extend them an opportunity to enter a home-and-away agreement.
"Nobody put their hand up to make a home-and-away arrangement with them so it had to go to a neutral venue," said Leinster Council chairman John Horan. If that is the case, surely the Leinster council should insist counties engage in that arrangement, based on the principle of fairness. Is not that a fundamental point in sport? Ironically, the game on Saturday will be Galway’s fifth game in Tullamore since joining the Leinster championship seven years ago and they have yet to win in O’Connor Park.