The Munster Council has adopted a common-sense approach to venue selection for the Waterford Crystal Cup and other competitions – and they’re reaping the rewards in terms of atmosphere and attendance, say officials.
Munster Council deputy chief executive Enda McGuane says they’re trying to make games more accessible, which is part of the reasoning behind tomorrow’s Waterford Crystal Cup final between Clare and Tipperary being played in Sixmilebridge, rather than Ennis or Semple Stadium.
“It’s been a Munster Council policy we’ve adopted in recent years,” said McGuane.
“It’s not just for the Waterford Crystal or the McGrath Cups, it’s applied in the U21 championship as well.
“We felt we could make the games more accessible, number one, and number two, we’d be utilising some of the venues that are available to us. The Council has put huge money into infrastructure in the last few years. I think the sum is €8 to €9m in the last four years. As a result we have good facilities, good lights, good access, good stands for patrons. We just felt we should utilise it.”
McGuane can point to the practical benefits of those decisions in a relatively low-profile game: “One of the best turn-outs we got for a game in the last few years was a minor football championship we played in Newcastle West between Limerick and Kerry.
“It was in the football heartland of Limerick, but it was obviously very convenient for Kerry supporters. That’s the line of thinking we’ve used in recent years with games like that.”
There’s a common complaint from spectators that a small crowd can seem smaller if they’re scattered around a huge stadium, with the sense of occasion plummeting as a consequence. That’s been taken on board by the Munster Council, says McGuane. Accordingly, they’ve tried to fit the venue to the scale of the event and hoped the atmosphere benefits.
“Obviously we have very good stadia,” says McGuane, “But those get plenty of use over the summer in the championship.
“Everyone wants to play in or attend a game with a good atmosphere, but if you know in advance that a match is going to attract 3,000 to 4,000 spectators, then it makes sense to put them in a slight smaller venue than Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Semple Stadium, magnificent settings though they are.
“It shouldn’t be forgotten the playing facilities in these secondary grounds are as good as you’ll find. They might not be quite on a par with Semple Stadium and Fitzgerald Stadium, maybe, but they wouldn’t be far off them.”
Thus tomorrow’s showdown between the Banner County and the Premier County at a location just over the Limerick border: that’s not an accident, says the Munster Council official, who lists off the advantages of the venue.
“Sixmilebridge would be a case in point, it’s the secondary ground in Clare, it’s a facility which has received a lot of investment in recent years, it’s the centre of the hurling heartland in Clare,” says McGuane. “And the location is good for Tipperary supporters who are going tomorrow as well. It’s just five miles off a major motorway just past Limerick. Hopefully that’ll help with the attendance as well.”
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