The GAA is well on course to bypass the 1.5 million mark for championship attendances this year as the news comes that Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final double-bill is a sell-out, the first of the summer.
If it hasn’t already, the 1m figure for football will be bypassed with the Tyrone-Armagh and Dublin-Monaghan games in Croke Park with over 60,000 expected to attend the following day’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final between Galway and Tipperary.
Roscommon and Mayo made up most of the 65,746 crowd at GAA HQ last Sunday and a 30,000-plus attendance is anticipated for Monday’s SFC quarter-final replay.
Irish Examiner analysis found that crowds for the provincial football championships were well in excess of 400,000.
Boosted by Mayo and Armagh’s runs through the qualifiers, the backdoor games and the opening two quarter-finals have drawn beyond 210,000. The remaining six fixtures are expected to pull in close to 350,000, which would see the total senior football championship attendances close to the 1m mark. Not since 2009 have the football championship figures exceeded that number. The record figure came in 2003 when 1.166m attended SFC matches.
Last year, they dropped to 788,464 from 889,048 the year before, the lowest since the introduction of the qualifiers in 2001.
The improvement, which is even more impressive given Monday’s replay is only the second this summer, comes as the GAA is set to augment the number of matches in the All-Ireland series from seven to 15 games with the introduction of the Super 8.
It’s estimated that approximately 370,000 have already attended this year’s hurling championship with the Munster SHC accounting for 127,992 of that total, an increase of 22% on last year.
The Leinster SHC’s numbers have also jumped from 2016 and come in roughly at 110,000, while close to 130,000 have attended the qualifiers and the quarter-finals. The hurling total may yet reach the 600,000 mark.
Meanwhile, the GAA will next week finalise the All-Ireland hurling senior, U21 and minor championship proposals 2018-2020 that will be presented to Central Council to put forward at September’s Special Congress.
Amendments were invited to the Central Competitions Control Committee’s initial recommendation to make the provincial championships round-robin series with an appending third developing group.
They have since considered a new tiered championship between the Liam MacCarthy and Christy Ring Cups for Laois, Westmeath, Kerry, Carlow, Antrim and Meath.
However, there has been a general lukewarm reaction to the idea.
Regarding the round-robin provincial championships, concerns have been raised by some counties about the impact of extra championship games — each team will be guaranteed at least four instead of two as is the case now — on club schedules but the appeal of home championship fixtures, at least two per summer, particularly for those with large stadiums is enticing.
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