MUNSTER fans are already winners in advance of next Saturday’s eagerly awaited Heineken Cup semi-final against Leinster at Croke Park as they will be able to see the big match on a giant TV screen in the centre of Limerick.
In contrast, there are no plans by the civic authorities in Dublin to lay on similar facilities for Leinster fans, despite the fact that the match will not be available to most TV viewers.
The Munster-Leinster semi-final is likely to result in one of the busiest weekends of the year for pubs as thousands of ticketless supporters are expected to flock to bars in both provinces to witness the latest showdown between the two great rivals of Irish rugby.
However, Munster fans will also be able to watch the match on an 18-metre TV screen being erected in Limerick city centre on Saturday evening as part of the city’s four-day Riverfest.
The civic authorities in Limerick yesterday announced that they had switched the planned location of the TV screen from George’s Quay to Merchant’s Quay in order to accommodate a larger screen and a bigger crowd. It is understood that around €3,500 has been spent to arrange the viewing facility for the rugby-mad supporters of Limerick — who played a famous role in Munster’s first European Cup victory in 2006 when images of a crowded O’Connell Street were beamed into Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
“The weather forecast for the weekend looks pretty good so it should be a great occasion,” said Limerick Co-Ordination Office spokesperson, Laura Ryan.
TV viewers who don’t have a subscription to Sky Sports will be unable to watch the match live as the game is exclusive to the Rupert Murdoch-owned station, while most fans are unlikely to be content to wait to watch highlights of the game on RTÉ on Saturday evening.
Communications Minister Eamon Ryan is currently inviting submissions to consider what major sporting events should be made available free-to-air for Irish TV viewers.
However, there is no chance of any decision to include the Heineken Cup matches being made in advance of the final of this year’s tournament on May 23 in Edinburgh, which is guaranteed to feature one of the Irish provinces.
However, Dublin City Council said it had no plans to arrange any public viewing of the match on a giant TV screen in the capital.
“We have not been approached by anyone and there has been no need for it,” the council said.
Similarly, Cork City Council also stated that it had not considered organising a mass screening of Saturday’s game.
All 82,300 tickets for the game were immediately snapped up by supporters.
Stand tickets costing €45 at face value are currently fetching offers in excess of €240 per ticket on the black market with the price likely to rise.
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