Sunny side up for GAA attendances

The GAA is on course for a hike in Championship attendances, with three of the four provincial councils estimating increases on last year’s numbers.

Sunny side up for GAA attendances

Combining factors such as replays, the novelty of the Kilkenny-Tipperary qualifier, the most open hurling competition in years, not to mention the recent good weather, the association is on the way to eclipsing their total figures for 2012.

GAA director of games administration Feargal McGill was remaining grounded on the matter.

“We’re holding our own but just as I said when the perception was attendances were falling I’ll say again when the perception is they are rising — we can’t make judgements on single weekends, months, two months or seasons. Attendances have to be judged in three or four year periods.”

However, he admitted there is the potential for several crowd-pulling games in the weeks to come.

“There are some fantastic games to look forward to and I’m pretty confident August will be a good month.

“Never in my lifetime has there been so many potential All-Ireland winners across both codes. I grew up in the 1970s and since then there has never been more than a few teams capable of winning the All-Ireland in football. Currently, everyone would agree there’s at least five.

“In hurling, every single team left in the Championship will feel they have the ability to beat any of the others. It’s quite remarkable.”

A Kerry-Cork final this year means the Munster Council will improve on their SFC attendance and gate receipt figures from last year while they might also show a jump in hurling.

“We are happy enough with our attendances in 2013, which we predict will be up on last year’s figures,” said chairman Robert Frost. “A Cork and Kerry Munster football final was a huge boost, we had 36,370 in Killarney on Sunday, though I thought we could have had another 1,000.

“We are looking at a full house in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday for the hurling finals, which would mean a crowd of about 44,000.

“There is massive interest in the game in Limerick, especially as they have teams in both the minor and senior finals.

“Adding all of that up, it would mean that we would have about 95,000 patrons for our senior championships this year, which would be a great figure in this economic climate.

“With some good U21 fixtures coming up in the next few weeks we are confident that we will break 150,000 in terms of attendances across the province this year, which would be a jump on the 2012 figures.

“The key to it all is if you have quality teams and quality matches people will go and watch them.”

Leinster are also expecting a boost in their numbers, helped in no small part by Dublin’s hurling success and two replays.

“I’d say our attendances are up on last year,” said Leinster PRO John Greene. “We had a very good replay between Kilkenny and Dublin that brought in an extra 11,000.

“But in general our attendances have held up well. Even the U21 games are up and in the football final we had 6,500 while I think there were only 3,000 there the previous year.

“The pairings have a big bearing on it. We’ve had a brilliant Leinster hurling championship, which we haven’t had for a long time. It had become a foregone conclusion and when Dublin got there everyone wanted them to do well. A lot of our counties have a high population so when one of them goes unexpectedly well it brings in big numbers.”

Greene said they are anticipating a crowd of 60,000 for Sunday’s Leinster SFC final between Dublin and Meath and admitted the fine spell of weather had a positive effect on the hurling decider attendance.

Ulster Council president Martin McAviney was also happy to report the province’s SFC attendances will be up for a second year in succession.

Putting it down to a robust marketing campaign and good draws, he said: “Approximately, 116,500 fans have attended out football championship this year and we are anticipating a 31,000 sellout for the final between Donegal and Monaghan.

“If that comes to pass then attendances will be up 10,000 on the 2012 figures which is a jump of about 10%.”

Meanwhile the Connacht Council expect attendances to be similar to last year’s despite the appearance of London in the final against Mayo on July 21 at Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar.

Figures for 2013 are higher on last season’s so far. Mayo’s first round game against Galway attracted 16,243, which is well up on the 12,962 that attended Roscommon and Galway’s opening meeting last year.

An average of 13,000 went to the 2012 semi-finals while that figure rose to just over 16,000 this year due to Leitrim and London going to a replay and Mayo’s joust with Roscommon attracting just under 20,000.

The Connacht Council need 16,000 people to attend this year’s final to match the 2012 season’s overall total but given the unique nature of the final, with Mayo rated 1/500 on in the bookies, it is impossible to estimate the expected attendance.

“We’re delighted with these figures given the economic circumstances in the province. People here want to see the Connacht championship games and the figures show it,” said Connacht Council secretary John Prenty.

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