GAA Football

Take inter-county games to Croke Park: McAliskey

Clonoe's new captain Connor McAliskey takes on the Trillick defence during Sunday's game. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

AS many inter-county games as possible should be taken to Croke Park this winter, believes Connor McAliskey.

The Clonoe man, who has opted out of Tyrone duty in 2020 but has not closed the door on a return in future, believes the Dublin venue should be utilised for the provincial and All-Ireland championships.

Debate has grown in recent weeks over where the eagerly-anticipated knockout tie between Donegal and Tyrone will take place in early November.

The game is currently set for Ballybofey but with restrictions on crowd numbers likely to still be in place, albeit somewhat relaxed by then, there have been suggestions the game could be moved out of MacCumhaill Park.

McAliskey feels that the GAA should be looking to utilise their headquarters so that as many supporters as possible can take in games live.

“To be honest, I've said this from the start, if they're going to condense the season and only going to let so many people in to watch games, with the timeframe and weather that could come in, why don't they take every game to Croke Park?

“The pitch is sitting there, it's obviously the best pitch in Ireland, it can hold as many supporters as you're allowed, in around 20,000 they're talking at that time of year.

“When it comes to November, December, we've played league games in it – a week's bad weather and pitches are unplayable. Look at Healy Park, you get a bad day there and you're not going to be able to play.

“When the game's there and there's a draw to bring such a game as Tyrone-Donegal to Croke Park, why not? The pitch is there for Gaelic football.”

His words echo those of Tyrone assistant boss Gavin Devlin, who called last week for the game to be moved to a bigger venue than Ballybofey.

McAliskey admits that Donegal are entitled to dig their heels in over home advantage but says that either way, he believes his former team-mates will be ready.

“If you had home advantage, you wouldn't want to lose it, so rightly Donegal will fight to keep the game in Ballybofey.

“Tyrone have plenty of experience going to Ballybofey, they know how difficult it will be but I wouldn't like to rule out Tyrone going there and picking up the win.

“Look at the Super 8s game where they won to make the semi-final, so I don't think any of the boys would go in with fear. They'll play with confidence.”

The new Clonoe captain got his own year off to a great start with a superb display in an emphatic 12-point win over county champions Trillick on Sunday, and says his focus is firmly on a huge championship derby with Coalisland in a few weeks' time.

Turned 28 this year, McAliskey says he is not ruling out a return to Tyrone colours in future, but felt he needed a refresh and that he did a lot of weighing up before opting out for 2020.

“It's obviously a big decision when you leave the county setup. In your head, you're thinking ‘if Tyrone win an All-Ireland medal, can I accept it?'

“But physically and mentally, it was what I needed to do. I hope the boys go win it. It's probably a lot easier for me with lockdown, that we're not in championship in the height of summer, so it's been easier to take that step away.

“I had that discussion with Mickey O'Neill when he stepped away, when they call at the end of the year and it's a blank slate, anything can happen next year.

“If you live in the mentality of ‘if I leave and they win the All-Ireland next year', you might never leave. I had to make the decision and bite the bullet.

“I really hope the boys do go and win the All-Ireland, I'll be one of the happiest people for them. I know they deserve it.”

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GAA Football