Club finals go all-ticket to avoid repeat of 2004 fiasco

THE All-Ireland club finals will be an all-ticket affair to avoid a repeat of last year's embarrassing fiasco when thousands had to be allowed into Croke Park free of charge to avoid a possible crush.

GAA officials decided against an all-ticket policy last year as they expected a crowd of between 22,000 and 25,000 for the football and hurling deciders. More than 38,000 turned up.

With only the Hogan Stand and Canal End open, fans became agitated at the delay in paying in through the 30 available turnstiles before a decision was taken on instructions from the Gardaí to open more gates "for health and safety reasons" 10 minutes after the throw-in for the hurling final.

"The numbers swelled last year and it took us all by surprise," said GAA President Sean Kelly.

"As a result there were problems with the crowd getting into the ground and, not surprisingly, we took some stick over it.

"This year we've had no choice but to go all-ticket for the games. With the continued marketing of the games the crowds attending these finals is likely to get bigger and we're hopeful no one will have any problems getting in or out next week."

The GAA is hopeful that a record crowd of over 50,000 will attend the finals in nine days' time, and with three of the four teams involved based in major urban areas (Kilkenny City, Portlaoise and Ballina), that target may well be reached.

"We're working hard on the bigger ticket picture and we hope the distribution will be easier for all games in the future. In the long term, agencies will be involved. The committee we have appointed to examine this issue will be making a presentation to management in the next two weeks."

Meanwhile, Kelly revealed the GAA would be advertising immediately for the newly-created position of hurling CEO, recommended by the Hurling Development Committee (HDC) and accepted by Croke Park last week.

The new 'hurling manager' will be responsible for implementing a new blueprint for the game and he will also hold the purse-strings for critical areas such as coaching and promotion.

Kelly said members of the HDC, which includes Nicky English, Cyril Farrell and Ger Loughnane, may be amongst those applying for the post.

"Naturally the people on the HDC will be entitled to go for the position. There are some great people there and I am most grateful to them because it was a gamble on my behalf changing the structure of the HDC, which was in the past made up of officials.

"They worked hard and brought in a new championship structure which will give every county hope and they are working on a realistic plan for the future of hurling. They know their game and they also know the business side of things too."

Kelly was speaking at the AIB GAA Provincial Player awards in Dublin where Mount Sion's Ken McGrath and Athenry's Joe Rabbitte were honoured for the second time.

Football Awards: Enda Devenney: (Connacht, Ballina); Colm Parkinson (Leinster, Portlaoise); John Daly (Munster, Kilmurry-Ibrickane); Johnny Murtagh (Ulster, Crossmaglen).

Hurling Awards: Joe Rabbitte (Connacht, Athenry); Eoin Larkin, (Leinster, James Stephens); Ken McGrath, (Munster, Mount Sion); Jim Connolly, (Ulster, O'Donovan Rossa).

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