By Brendan O’Brien
Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football finals are unlikely to match last year’s record-breaking attendance figures, but the hope is that the triple-header, topped by the meeting of Dublin and Cork, can approach an attendance touching 40,000.
The 2017 senior, intermediate and junior deciders attracted 46,286 spectators to Croke Park.
The biggest crowd ever recorded at a ladies football game, it stood as the highest attendance for any women’s sporting event in the world for the calendar year.
The closest to it was the figure of 35,271 posted at the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley four months earlier when Manchester City overcame Birmingham City 4-1. This year’s FA Cup decider, between Chelsea and Arsenal, drew in 45,423.
“It would be just wonderful if we can even get close to that again this year,” said Ladies Gselic Football Association president Marie Hickey. “Certainly we are hoping. Ticket sales are good but it is very hard to pinpoint where you are with them, or where you are going to be for Sunday.
“It would be great to see an improvement in that. Cork have been very busy with the camogie last weekend so I’m sure they will be all getting on the ticket sales this week and we will hopefully see a good response there as well.”
The low point in terms of attendance in modern times came in 2012 when, after a number of years where the 20,000 barrier was broken, Cork defeated Kerry in front of just 16,998 people.
The graph has surged upwards on a yearly basis ever since.
The biggest jump of them all fell between 2016 and last season when an increase bordering on 12,000 was recorded at HQ and the top tier of the stadium was used for the first time.
Reaching such heights again would be a huge achievement.
"There had been such a good game with the men before that and there was probably a bounce from that. I also think that we have done a lot of work in promoting the finals and promoting the games in clubs throughout the country and not just in participating counties. So we had a larger number of supporters from non-participating counties than ever last year, which was heartening to see.
“Needless to say there was a great response from Dublin, as always. A lot of the Dublin lads players had put it out there to support the women as well and that made a difference.”