There's no place like home
There’s no doubt about it, home advantage exists.
In academic terms, it’s when the home team wins over 50% of their games at home, in a home and away playing schedule, (Courneya & Carron, 1992). Part of the reason for this advantage is the strength of the home crowd, with players saying they can feel them ‘lift’ them at crunch times. Interestingly, as the crowd density goes up, home advantage also increases (Agnew & Carron, 1994).
It’s no wonder then, that Kildare are adamant that they want the game at St. Conleth’s Park, which, when full to capacity, would become Fortress Kildare. A crowd roaring their team on can also subconsciously influence key refereeing decision, and indeed studies have found that if you silence the crowd, home advantage can be eliminated (Dohmen, 2008). These are just two major points as to why no team would reasonably give up their home advantage, except in exceptional circumstances.
Even before Newbridge-gate, home advantage was a big discussion point this summer. Waterford, who have already been knocked out of the Munster Hurling Championship, forfeited their home games, as Walsh Park was deemed not fit for purpose. Of course, they also were in the throes of an injury crisis, but looking back on their games, how much, for example, of an impact did the crowd in Ennis have on their result against Clare? And conversely, note how delighted the Clare hurlers were when they got to play a crucial game against Limerick in Cusack Park a few weeks ago? Afterwards, the players and management all said the home venue was a factor in their empathetic victory.
If we look at the Hurling leagues in their current format, the home side has a victory rate of 59%, and in the overall hurling championships, there’s a win rate of 55% for the home sides. Any official who claims a field is a field, or a ground in Dublin is the same as playing in Newbridge for a Kildare footballer is just plain wrong. It is taking a very black and white view of sport, and the emotions and motivations behind playing for your county. Of course, playing at home doesn’t guarantee a win. It does guarantee though, that the odds are stacked slightly in your favour.
Agnew, G. A., & Carron, A. V. (1994). Crowd effects and the home advantage. International Journal of Sport Psychology.
Courneya, K. S., & Carron, A. V. (1992). The home advantage in sport competitions: A literature review. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 14(1), 13-27.
Dohmen, T. J. (2008). The influence of social forces: Evidence from the behavior of football referees. Economic inquiry, 46(3), 411-424.