GAA set for bumper weekend

A SUMMER pockmarked by disappointing attendances is set for a marked improvement this weekend with large attendances in Croke Park likely to generate over €3m in gate receipts for the GAA.

In a statement released yesterday evening, the association announced that crowds were down by only 2% on their 2009 equivalents but they conceded that numbers at some ‘traditional’ fixtures had been less satisfactory.

Dublin’s early elimination from the Leinster Championship and the lack of interest in the Cork-Limerick hurling encounter were among the reasons listed for the shortfall but the third factor was by far the most significant.

President Christy Cooney was adamant last month that events in South Africa this summer had not impacted on spectator footfall but the statement admitted that: “the unusual timing of a number of fixtures as a result of television scheduling because of World Cup matches” had been an issue.

It hasn’t been all bad news. Attendance figures for the qualifiers are actually up 13% this year while the one million mark (inclusive of both codes) will be broken, and greatly exceeded, this weekend.

Even that landmark must come accompanied by an asterix, however, as it should be noted that the magical seven figures were clocked up a full two weeks earlier back in 2007 during that summer’s Leinster final.

However, it is expected that the ‘full house’ notices will be swinging from the Croke Park gates for the first time this season when Kerry take on Down and Dublin do battle with Tyrone on Saturday.

“We are preparing for a full house on Saturday and we would be encouraging supporters to get there early as there is no guarantee that we will be selling any tickets on the day itself,” said the GAA’s ticketing manager Ronan Murphy.

Dublin’s supporters have been far more prudent with their euros so far this year but the numbers have slowly improved the further Pat Gilroy’s side has gone in the qualifiers.

Kerry supporters will hardly add a significant amount to the overall figure on the Saturday but that will be more than made up for by the numbers making the trip to the capital from Ulster.

Down are appearing in their first ever quarter-final and have already confirmed their best championship showing since 1994, while Tyrone’s following has been consistent in its willingness to opt for cars over couches.

Having Meath and Kildare on the card for the Sunday double bill is another boost to the GAA and, while there will be scope for walk-up fans on the day, the expectation is that another considerable attendance will be recorded.

Said Murphy: “Meath and Kildare are, traditionally, very well supported counties so we would be expecting them to bring large numbers again and I was on to someone in Roscommon earlier and they are hoping to bring 10,000.”

Estimating the worth of attendances to the association is difficult given the differences in ticket prices for varying rounds of the championship and the increasing proliferation of special packages available in recent years.

However, the general consensus is that a full house for a game at Croke Park is worth somewhere in the region of €2m when everything is added up and subtracted.

The GAA yesterday thanked its members for their ongoing support “in what continue to be challenging times” and launched a new range of ticketing packages in an attempt to lure floating voters from their living rooms.

Various combination packages have been put to the market, one of which offers fans the opportunity to purchase tickets for the last eight and the semi-finals at a price of €65 for adults and €10 for juveniles.

Others include the ‘Football Feast’ deal which would entitle patrons entrance to all the quarter and semi-finals for €99, as well as a dual package incorporating all that plus the two hurling semi-finals for €150.

“Last year was the first year for the combo packages and they went very well,” Murphy explained. “I suppose it is a case of supporters from certain counties being more confident that their teams would come through the quarter-finals and that was reflected last year in the pattern of the sales.”

The GAA has come under fire on a number of occasions this year for its refusal to reduce the price of basic tickets in the midst of the recession – even Waterford hurler John Mullane launched such a broadside prior to the championship.

However, association figures have always been quick to stress that they have launched a number of other ticketing schemes for supporters in recent times, including a season ticket and the Club Pass. The season ticket is also in its second season and, with a particularly strong take-up in Kerry, Dublin and Tyrone, members of the scheme will account for the entirety of the Lower Cusack Stand’s central sections on Saturday.

“We want more people at our matches and we would feel that we are always the best value out there, especially for juveniles, or ‘16s or under’ as we call them now, who are admitted for free or €5 all year apart from the All-Ireland finals,’’ Murphy said.


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