Sunday’s football equivalent attracted just over 20,676, the Leinster title decider between Kilkenny and Dublin was watched by 29,437 while the weekend qualifiers crowds were also down on previous years.
But chairman Jimmy O’Gorman is adamant the clash of Waterford and Tipperary will test the capacity of the famed ground.
O’Gorman said last night: “I think we will have 45,000 plus for Sunday. The demand has been incredible. People have been ringing me and asking about sourcing tickets for the game.
“It is proof again of the magic of the Munster hurling championship final day in Thurles.’’
And he insists that the Munster championship must remain sacrosanct in the face of calls for open draws in hurling and football.
“Imagine a year without the Munster hurling championship? It would be unimaginable. There should be no change.”
However O’Gorman expressed dismay that both the Munster SHC final and the Leinster SFC decider are fixed for the same afternoon. He hopes national fixtures chiefs will consider splitting such glamour occasions in the future.
“I don’t think that glamour games like the Munster SHC final and the Leinster SFC final should be fixed for the same day.
“I believe there are a lot of people who would like to travel to see both matches, there is a huge cross-over of fans. The other problem is that the Dublin v Kildare game will be on at 2pm and people will be watching that game on television in Thurles, leaving the pubs and then arriving up at Semple Stadium late.
“The Munster Council are the ones who will then be criticised if people are forced to queue to get into the ground and there is a delay. No matter how many gates we have in operation, we can only let so many people into any of our grounds in such a short space of time.
“My advice to people is to source their tickets as early as possible this week, I think that all the stand tickets will be sold out before Friday. I would then advise them to get to the ground as early as possible and enjoy the minor match and the celebrations we have planned.”
The Munster Council are undertaking a weekend of festivities to mark the 125th anniversary of the GAA and O’Gorman expects it to be a fitting tribute to such a momentous occasion.
He revealed: “Our celebrations start on Friday night with a civic reception hosted by Thurles Town Council. We will then have an information night with some imminent speakers in Tipperary Institute.
“On Saturday morning we go to Carron in County Clare, the birthplace of Association founder Michael Cusack. We will unveil a plaque to him there. A torch run will then leave Carron at noon, come through Ennis, with representatives of the Clare clubs carrying the torch; the Limerick clubs will take if from Gaelic Grounds and then Tipperary clubs will take it from Finnegan’s roundabout on the border.
“They will bring it as far as the racecourse in Thurles. We will have mass in the Cathedral at 7.30pm celebrated by (GAA’s Honorary Patron) Archbishop Clifford and then we will have a pipe band leading us into the square at 9pm. There will be a number of other events going on around the town; the Guinness Gig Rig will be there providing wonderful free entertainment while we have a race night at the greyhound stadium and all people wearing their county colours will be admitted for half price.
He added: “On Sunday morning we will have more entertainment on the Gig Rig and the Artane Boys Band will be in the square. Then the torch will taken by a player from each of the six counties from the square to Semple Stadium where it will be handed to the legendary Jimmy Doyle. He will present it to me as chairman of the Munster Council. The chairman of each of the six counties will then light torches off of it. That presentation will take place around 3.10pm and we hope that as many people as possible will be in the ground to witness that.”
It will be an afternoon of mixed emotions for O’Gorman as Sunday will be his last as Munster Council Chairman. “Yes it is my third and final year in the role. But it will be a wonderful honour to play such an integral role in the 125 anniversary of the association.”
And what prediction has the Waterford native for the outcome? “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a Waterford win,” he laughed. “But seriously I hope for a good game, one that will mark such a great occasion and live long in the memory of classic Munster finals.”