GAA Football

Home 'advantage' may be missing for Kildare against high-scoring Mayo

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill argued strongly for their match against Mayo to take place in Newbridge. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round three: Kildare v Mayo (Newbridge or nowhere, 7pm)

WHOSE home match is it anyway? After the scheduling fun and games earlier in the week, Kildare may find that Mayo will have the last laugh tonight.

The Lilywhites took a brave stand, prepared to forego the fixture rather than give up home advantage, but although they won in one sense, they may lose out in at least one more.

It would take a brave stand, using that adjective in its colloquial sense, to hold all the people who want to watch this contest. As it is, the capacity limitations of St Conleth's Park aren't conducive to combining the home support and all the visiting season ticket-holders.

So it seems there may be more spectators backing Mayo than the Lilywhites. That might well have been the case in Croke Park anyway, or even O'Moore Park, but Kildare have put a cap on their own support with their insistence on this venue.

Obviously Cian O'Neill's men will be more familiar with the ground itself, the pitch and the posts, but although those are useful factors, it won't help to have more noise directed against their players and towards the referee.

Yet there's no disputing that Kildare have a better chance at home than they would have had at headquarters, especially as Mayo are regular visitors to the north Dublin venue.

The last time these two counties met in Championship (only the second ever, after a 1935 All-Ireland semi-final won by the Lilywhites), in the second round of the qualifiers two years ago, Mayo won comfortably in Castlebar, by nine points.

As with this year, Kildare had ended up in Division Two earlier that season, but in very different circumstances. Back then the Lilywhites had topped Division Three; this year they were relegated from the top flight, losing all seven matches.

Still, it's probably better to have had that recent Division One experience, even if they did lose by seven points when Mayo came to Newbridge in round five.

Both sides have scored heavily since getting knocked out of their provincial Championships. Mayo weren't disgraced in losing by a goal to arch-rivals Galway, albeit at home. Kildare, though, were humiliatingly hammered by Carlow, 2-14 to 1-10, although almost literally everything Carlow hit went over or under the bar that day.

Since then Kildare have registered 3-38 in two qualifiers, Mayo 6-38. However, O'Neill's team had to work much harder for their wins over two Division Three teams, Derry and Longford; Mayo won by 18 and eight points against Division Four Limerick and Division Two Tipperary respectively.

With both having had to travel in their qualifier games, Kildare will hope all the fuss over Newbridge proves worth it.

But the greater quality of defenders available to Stephen Rochford should help Mayo move a step closer to the Super Eights, with none of the losing provincial finalists likely to be a concern to them in the next round.

 

Paths to round three:

KILDARE

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Carlow 2-14 Kildare 1-10

All-Ireland qualifiers round one: Derry 2-14 Kildare 2-22

All-Ireland qualifiers round two: Longford 1-13 Kildare 1-16

MAYO

Connacht SFC quarter-final: Mayo 0-12 Galway 1-12

All-Ireland qualifiers round one: Limerick 3-7 Mayo 5-19

All-Ireland qualifiers round two: Tipperary 1-11 Mayo 1-19

38 - the total points scored by both Kildare and Mayo in their two qualifier games so far; the Lilywhites have also netted three goals - and Mayo have doubled that tally of majors.

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