GAA chiefs are hopeful inter-county opening evenings will become an annual fixture in the Association calendar.
Croke Park directed all county boards to organise meet and greet events for today and tomorrow this week to help promote the football and hurling championships.
However, Allianz Hurling League and All-Ireland champions Kilkenny will not be hosting an event this week due to club fixture commitments but a spokesman insisted they will be organising an event for supporters at a later date.
Association bosses insist the strategy isn’t prompted by the threat posed to attendances by the European Championships and the London Olympics but is meant to build greater relations between players and GAA fans.
GAA spokesman Alan Milton last night explained: “Nobody here in Croke Park takes the huge attendances and interest in our games for granted especially in this tough economic time so we decided to organise these evenings.
“There has been a lot of comment about the European Championships and the Olympics. But this is not a knee jerk reaction to those events. We are very confident in our games. Instead we see these events as great family occasions.
“Most teams, unless they reach the All-Ireland finals, never have nights like this and never get the chance to interact with the younger fans especially.
“This allows them the perfect opportunity to do so. Many county boards are very innovative in terms of what they are organising. For example, Armagh GAA have a longest kick and penalty taking competition while Mayo coaches will put youngsters through their paces with skills testing.”
He admitted a few counties have received ‘leeway’ due to local championship games or challenges which were organised earlier.
The majority of counties opted for the Friday night meet and greet option. However, a number, including Kerry and Tipperary are hosting supporters this evening in Fitzgerald Stadium and Semple Stadium respectively.
Kerry GAA chief Patrick O’Sullivan explained: “We have a training weekend planned this weekend that was organised about two months ago. This training weekend is very important for our preparations heading into the championship so that’s why we are meeting fans this evening.”
Tomorrow, members of the Cork senior panels and management will be available in Páirc Uí Chaoimh from 7.30pm to 8pm while the Carriganore Sports Centre will host the Waterford event from 7pm. All-Ireland SFC champions Dublin meet their fans in Fingallians from 7.30pm.
GAA Director General Paraic Duffy believes the concept will be a huge success: “We would hope this would be an annual thing that we would put it in the calendar at the start of the year. It is a good initiative to bring players closer to supporters.” Meanwhile Duffy has welcomed the appointment of Eugene McGee as chair of the Football Review Committee: “We need some changes in football but that is a story for another day,” Duffy told TV3.
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