GAA cheer crowd figures boost

GAA ATTENDANCE figures for the season have exceeded all expectations, with director general Páraic Duffy indicating yesterday that numbers for the Championship have actually increased.

It had been expected that attendances would be hit heavily by the economic downturn and the GAA had prepared itself for such an eventuality.

However, it now appears unlikely the Association will suffer any reduction whatsoever, according to Duffy, which would be a remarkable achievement in the current climate.

“We’d be hugely happy. Our attendances are up 2% on last year. If somebody had said to us back in January or February ‘your attendances will actually rise’ we would have said ‘that’s not possible’.

“Ticket sales are good for next Sunday. I think we’re on target and at the end of the year, the worst we’ll be is we’ll be flat. We’re not going to suffer any reduction. For the league and championship, I’d say we’ll be up marginally.”

Duffy attributed the healthy position to the numerous marketing initiatives that provided competitive packages for groups and individuals at provincial and national level. He also pointed to what he argued was the high standard of fare in the championships, but particularly in football, although Galway’s appearance in the Leinster hurling championship was also a considerable factor, he maintained.

With around 50,000 people expected at Croke Park for Sunday’s All-Ireland football quarter-final between Mayo and Meath, and the Kilkenny-Waterford hurling semi-final, the GAA has every reason to be happy.

And not even Dublin’s loss to Kerry can put a dampener on that.

“We don’t assume Dublin will be in a semi-final,” Duffy stated. “If they were, you’d probably have an extra 30,000-35,000 people. The All-Ireland finals will fill anyway, so it’s not a huge thing.

“Dublin (doing well) is good for the game and for the games in the capital but you don’t look at it from a financial point of view. It’s not a huge financial blow and certainly we don’t budget on the basis of Dublin getting to the All-Ireland final.”

Meanwhile, Duffy was delighted with the positive reaction from the players that played at Croke Park on Sunday and Monday in relation to the pitch. The pitch was re-laid in five days, having been dug up for the U2 concerts at GAA headquarters, but there was not one negative comment recorded from any of the teams that lined out.

“We were very happy with it. The key thing for us was that the players would say that it played properly and it did. I don’t think it looked great but it played absolutely perfect and that was very gratifying to hear.

“We knew it wouldn’t look well but it played perfectly and that was the only thing that concerned us. We did try it out last Friday and it was good so we were very confident but it was a relief after the whole process to know it was as good as the last one.”

He has no concerns about the hurling teams encountering any problems that the footballers might not.

“I’d expect it would play absolutely perfectly on Sunday,” said Duffy. “It will look better, it won’t be at its best, but it’s getting there.”

Duffy also revealed that while financial concerns were the key consideration for the AFL in postponing the international rules this season, concerns about swine flu were also raised. The AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has given a written assurance that the Aussies will travel next season, while Ireland will head Down Under in 2011.

Meanwhile Kerry officials believe they have no case to answer regarding claims that the county’s minors used too many extra time subs in Monday’s dramatic All-Ireland MFC victory over Roscommon Croke Park.

Roscommon GAA officials are scrutinising the quarter-final defeat to Kerry amid suggestions that the Kingdom may have used more subs than allowed. The curtain-raiser to the Kerry-Dublin senior quarter-final went to extra-time before Kerry emerged victorious by 3-15 to 1-17.

Roscommon have until midday today to lodge an appeal if they believe that a discrepancy took place. Roscommon County Board have not made a statement on the matter until they ascertain the facts, but it is believed they are looking at the possibility that Kerry used nine subs in total, five in normal time and four in extra-time.

However Kerry officials believe there may be some confusion on the matter, as the 15 players that begin extra time do not have to be the same as those who finished normal time.

Officials pointed out last night that the amount of changes was based on the starting 15 for extra time.

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