Croke Park hosting Connacht and Ulster football finals: Peter Canavan and Billy Joe Padden discuss the pros and cons

The Connacht football final takes place outside the western province for the first time on Sunday, with Mayo and Galway set to face off at Croke Park.

The move was made after the capacity at MacHale Park, Castlebar was capped at 3,600, compared to the 18,000 that will be in attendance at HQ.

The Ulster Council have made a similar move with Tyrone vs Monaghan to be held on Jones’ Road.

Sky Sports pundit Peter Canavan feels that numbers ought to be boosted for stadia in Castlebar and Clones to reduce travelling for supporters.

“Initially when I heard that, I actually did [think it was a good idea] because it’s a no-brainer. If you’re going to compare 2,000 or 3,000 at an Ulster final or 18,000 [in Croke Park], the players will want to play in Croke Park, they will want to play in front of a bigger crowd,” he outlined.

“But my preferred choice would be if you could get a bigger crowd into the likes of Clones or Castlebar. Surely you could get 10,000 or 12,000 in, rather than taking 18,000 to Dublin.

“You could argue that 15,000 in Castlebar with no travelling, overnight stays and the rest of it is more likely to reduce the spread of Covid-19 [than holding it in Croke Park] with many travelling overnight, and the pre and post-match festivities that take place.

“So that’s the risk that you run. But either way from a Tyrone point of view, we would be glad to go to Croke Park.”

Playing on Jones’ Road could be of benefit to the teams in action.

“I think you have to look at it from two different angles,” said former Mayo and Armagh star Billy Joe Padden.

“From the players’ point of view and the footballing point of view, it’s a good thing for Mayo and Galway to be going to Croke Park. Mayo don’t have a great record in MacHale Park. They’re very, very comfortable playing Croke Park over the last 10 years, they have played there 37 times. When you take the games against Dublin out, they’ve only lost on four occasions. So their record is very, very good there, much better than what it would be in MacHale Park.

“Galway as well, it suits them. Padraic Joyce has talked about winning All-Irelands. If you’re going to win an All-Ireland, you’re going to have to do it in Croke Park. They have only played there 10 times in the last 10 years. So they need to gain that experience, gain that comfort level playing there.

“But there has been some feeling in Mayo, is it necessary? It’s probably been a 50:50 split on people not feeling comfortable travelling all the way up to Dublin for the game, in the middle of a pandemic and the risks that that has for people. Some people would prepare just to go to MacHale Park, even with a reduced capacity.

“But when you look at it from the Connacht Council’s point of view, and I believe they were driving this, that getting 18,000 people in to see the game, it will generate much-needed funds for the organisation.”

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