Gaelic GamesThe Weekend That Was

Teams get to decide how important games are - but home comforts still apply

Mayo are the only top flight team with a 100% winning record at home, while Donegal and Armagh have similar records in Division Two

Across all four divisions of the Allianz Football League last weekend just eight of the 16 home teams were victorious.

Dublin came back down from Derry with maximum points, Galway beat Monaghan in Clones, there were away wins too for Armagh and Clare and Westmeath and Wexford, while Meath and Waterford picked up draws on the road.

There were two home wins in each division, which means two home teams in each division also failed to maximise local advantage. But what can you take from it all?

Derry had never lost to Dublin at Celtic Park before last weekend, and yet the smoke signals sent out by the Oak Leaf camp via their team selection didn’t exactly indicate a burning desire to ensure that record stuck.


“Our ambition was to try and secure Division One status and while it’s not mathematically 1,000 per cent now we did feel it was in a right good place so we felt it was time maybe to make a few changes and give a few other lads a chance,” said Mickey Harte after Derry’s loss to the Dubs.

Different games matter to different teams at different stages of the league. Some will be fighting for survival over the next two rounds while others – having already achieved what they wanted from the competition – will be winding down their spring campaign and instead turning a focus towards summer’s big show. Such variances can skew stats, but ultimately the figures indicate playing at home remains an advantage.

A total of 80 games have taken place across the divisions in this year’s football league – there have been 42 home victories, 32 away wins and six draws.

The difference between home and away outcomes is quite similar across the divisions. In the top flight there have been 11 home victories and eight away wins, plus one draw. In Division Two there have been 10 home wins, seven away triumphs and three draws. Division Three has produced 11 home victories and nine away wins, while Division Four has seen 10 home wins, eight away wins and two draws.

Mayo are the only team in Division One with a 100 per cent winning record at home – which in itself is quite something given MacHale Park had for much of the last decade operated more as a gift shop than a fortress. Even on their way to last year’s league final of their four home games Mayo won only two – but again everything should be viewed in the context of what matters to teams.

Mayo lost in Castlebar to Monaghan in round seven of last year’s league – a game which the top of the table home side entered with their eyes already on the league final while for the Farney County that match in MacHale Park was their league final, a game they needed to win to avoid relegation. It was a significantly more important fixture for Monaghan than it was for Mayo.

This season Kevin McStay’s men have chalked up wins over Dublin and Roscommon in their two home games so far. They have one more home match remaining, against Mickey Harte’s Derry.

“We’re trying to win games here in Castlebar and make it difficult for travelling teams,” said McStay after Saturday night’s win over Roscommon, a theme in keeping with his views when taking on the role in September 2022. “Do we want to make it a fortress? We’d love to do it,” he said at the time. “It is on our minds because we will have championship games at home, please God, so it is on our minds to make this a difficult place to come to.”

However, McStay also intimated on Saturday that with six points secured some of their attention could now switch to the championship rather than launching a full-scale assault to try advance to the league final again.

Indeed, the team selections of both camps will go a long way to determining if Mayo maintain their 100 per cent home record in the league when Derry arrive in two weeks. It will indicate the stock put on the game by the respective dressingrooms.

Roscommon did not lose either of their two home games in the league so far – drawing with Galway and beating Monaghan – but those are the only points Davy Burke’s men have picked up all season, their disappointing away form has seen them slip towards the bottom of the Division One table. Monaghan are the only team below Roscommon – Vinny Corey’s side have lost their two home games. Failure to pick up points on your home patch is relegation form.

In Division Two the sides occupying the promotion spots – Donegal and Armagh – are both unbeaten at home. Donegal have won all three of their home matches, and at different venues, with victories in Ballybofey, Letterkenny and Ballyshannon.

Armagh have beaten Louth and Meath at the Athletic Grounds, while Kieran McGeeney’s men drew with Donegal at the venue. Meath are also unbeaten at home in Division Two – Colm O’Rourke’s side drawing with Fermanagh but beating both Louth and Kildare.

And Kildare are perhaps one of the most instructive sides when it comes to the benefit of home advantage or lack thereof. Glenn Ryan’s men are currently floundering at the bottom of the Division Two table after suffering five successive defeats – but their cause has not been helped by the necessity of playing home games in Carlow this term.

With St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge undergoing redevelopment work Kildare are effectively away for all seven games this season. Of their opening five fixtures two were in Carlow (against Cavan and Armagh), with Kildare losing both by a combined margin of 18 points.

Kildare’s plight looks difficult now, and they will need two victories from their remaining fixtures (against Donegal and Louth) to have any chance of avoiding relegation. The good news for Kildare is both of those games are at home. The bad news is they haven’t got one right now.