The battle for promotion from Division 1B has turned into a money race with favourites Clare, Limerick, and Wexford desperate for a more substantial slice of the €1m-plus Allianz League gate receipt cake.
Although the money from Allianz League gates are pooled, counties are entitled to retain a percentage of them, which are considerably larger in Division 1A than 1B.
The GAA have also been dangling the carrot of providing more money to counties who market their home matches.
However, Clare, Limerick, and Wexford are likely to struggle in promoting all of the fixtures they host over the next two months, with each of them staging just one attractive match.
By winning the Division 1 title from Division 1B, Waterford were rewarded handsomely and they should reap more financial dividends with their three home games against Kilkenny, Dublin, and Galway this spring. Last year, Derek McGrath suggested the county board desired a return to Division 1A more than him because of the financial pressures they faced.
Limerick manager TJ Ryan now confronts a similar onus to succeed as the county attempt to return to the top flight for the first time since 2010. County secretary Mike O’Riordan spoke in December of the need to gain promotion to make hosting games in the Gaelic Grounds viable again.
“Unfortunately, we are in Division 1B at the moment and with the help of God, we can get out of Division 1B in the coming season.
“That would lead to bigger interest, bigger teams coming in and bigger gates. That would increase the revenue.”
Last summer, chairman Oliver Mann told club delegates that a jump to Division 1A is Limerick’s main aim this season although his point was based on the county facing stronger teams.
In 2015, Limerick accrued income of €74,614 from their participation in the Allianz Hurling and Football Leagues, a drop of 30% from 2014. Their hurlers’ three home matches came against Waterford and Offaly, which took place in the Gaelic Grounds, and Laois in Kilmallock’s Fitzgerald Park.
However, both Limerick and Wexford are guaranteed just two home matches this season, the pick of Limerick’s being the visit of Wexford to the Gaelic Grounds this Saturday evening. Their other home game sees them face Laois there on March 13. Wexford’s most appetising game in Innovate Wexford Park is Clare on Sunday week. Offaly make the trip there on March 13. Last year, Wexford reaped a total of €43,693 for their matches against Antrim, Limerick and Waterford, which included a bonus for reaching a quarter-final away to Cork.
Clare’s final round clash with Limerick is all but certain to sell out Cusack Park but, as much as the sight of Dónal Óg Cusack sharing the sideline with Davy Fitzgerald is intriguing, the visits of Offaly and Kerry to Ennis are unlikely to have the turnstiles spinning.
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