The Leinster Council is confident the attendance at Sunday’s provincial hurling final will surpass the crowd of 47,000 which endured last Sunday’s one-sided Leinster football decider.
For the second time in three years, the Leinster SHC final is set to attract more than the football decider, with provincial council chairman Jim Bolger forecasting a crowd of 50,000 at Croke Park for the first Leinster final meeting of Kilkenny and Wexford since 2008.
Between 1998 and 2016, attendances at the Leinster hurling final never once dwarfed the football equivalent, but with the unyielding dominance of the Dublin footballers negatively impacting crowd sizes, the Leinster hurling final has now become a more lucrative fixture for provincial coffers.
The 2017 Leinster hurling decider between Galway and Wexford drew a crowd of 60,032, the highest in 20 years, but Bolger does not expect this Sunday’s game to rival that figure. The Model County will be without Aidan Nolan after he picked up a two-match suspension for “abusive language” towards referee Fergal Horgan at the end of their 0-21 to 1-18 draw with Kilkenny the weekend before last.
Nolan was shown the red card after Horgan had blown the final whistle. A Wexford hurling team last laid its hands on the Bob O’Keeffe Cup in 2004, while Brian Cody’s Kilkenny are chasing a first Leinster triumph since 2016.
The game forms part of a triple-header with the Leinster MHC final (11.30am), also between Kilkenny and Wexford, and the Laois-Westmeath Joe McDonagh Cup decider (1.45pm).
"We are likely to get 50,000, maybe even 50,000-plus,” said Bolger.
47,000 was still a good crowd for the Leinster SFC final, even if it is not where it used to be. But, like any sport, there will be a fall off to some extent when one team is dominant.
Sunday’s Munster SHC final at the Gaelic Grounds will be a 44,023 sell-out, with a number of Limerick clubs, upon receiving their allocation of stand tickets, having to organise a ticket draw among its members as demand is out-stripping supply.
Elsewhere, the smaller than expected crowd at Saturday’s Munster SFC final contributed to a 41% drop in football championship attendances in the province compared to 2018. The Cork-Kerry decider, watched by 18,265 patrons, was the fifth-smallest Munster SFC final attendance in the past 40 years, bringing to 30,731 the total attendance for the 2019 Munster SFC, a decrease of 21,063 on last year’s figure.
Meanwhile, the death has occurred of Kevin Lenehan, who was right half-back on the Meath team which defeated Kerry in the 1954 All-Ireland SFC final to give the Royal County its second Sam Maguire Cup triumph.
The Duleek defender played a key part in the unexpected success with Offaly overcome in the Leinster title decider before a victory over Cavan earned a tilt against the defending champions.
Kerry went into the September clash as red-hot favourites but Meath, sporting eight of the side which made the big breakthrough in 1949, created a major shock when running out 1-13 to 1-7 winners.
Lenehan played in three more finals with Meath in the next two years. In 1955, Dublin inflicted heavy hidings in the National League and Leinster title ties, winning by 12 and 20 points respectively, and in ‘56 Cork won the League decider by two points.