GAA President Christy Cooney insists the furore surrounding the no-show from Ulster counties in Croke Park last week for the historic visit of Queen Elizabeth II, “has been blown out of proportion”.
County board officials from Tyrone, Fermanagh, Derry and Antrim claimed they were not invited to headquarters for the monarch’s trip, but Cooney revealed yesterday that Central Council delegates from every county were invited.
“Some people made the decision not to come and some people were not in a position to come,” he said.
“That is a perfect right. Central Council delegates from all counties were invited. But we had a very good attendance from all parts of the country and from Britain where we had the chairman and secretary. I think it went very well.
“People can tend to blow this out of proportion about who did and who didn’t attend. Some people just couldn’t attend, they had work commitments and they weren’t able to do it.”
Cooney is also adamant there was no agenda behind the decision not to have a member of Cork’s All-Ireland winning football squad present in Croke Park.
“We asked the GPA to organise the players for us and they had four players here for us – that’s all we requested. We didn’t lay down any specifics of where they should be from or who should be here.
“We left it to them and they had four players who represented the association extremely well.”
The issue of low attendances has already cropped up just two weekends into the 2011 championship season yet Cooney has urged for patience before making a definitive judgement on the crowds the GAA can expect.
“It’s too early. We’ll have a better idea in a few weeks time. If we can hold our numbers as well as last year we’ll be very pleased because it is challenging times for everybody.
“I still think the potential is there for us to hold our numbers because it’s a positive outcome for people to be able to go and enjoy our games and attend our matches. There are efforts being made in all the provinces to put good packages in place and a couple of weeks before the All-Ireland Championship starts we’ll be announcing a package too.”
This Sunday’s Munster SHC clash between Cork and Tipperary will be a good barometer but the pre-match demand for tickets is weak, particularly in Cork.
“The days of getting 50,000 for the first round of the Munster championship are well moved on. So I think they’ll be well pleased with 30,000 and that’s what I understand they’re geared for.”
Cooney also stated that GAA authorities at national level did not advise the Ulster Council on their scheduling of this Saturday’s provincial tie between Armagh and Down which clashes with the Champions League final. The decision to time the game for then has drawn criticism from various quarters but Cooney remains confident that there will be a healthy attendance at the Athletic Grounds.
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