The renewed interest in League of Ireland has manifested in a 25% increase of crowds on pre-pandemic levels.
A survey by www.extratime.ie analysed the turnouts of the first 79 games across the Premier and First Division divisions compared to 2019, the last season of unrestricted crowds. Venues were either closed or restricted to fans during the Covid-19 hit campaigns of 2020 and 2021.
In overall terms, 172,813 spectators came through the turnstiles, based on 72 official attendances and seven estimates derived from multiple sources present at games.
Contrasting with pre-pandemic years, that’s a quarter jump on 2019 levels, 40% on 2018 and a gigantic 56% leap compared to 2017.
The average headcount per game has increased from 2,579 in 2019 to 2,878 this year to date.
Unsurprisingly, the First Division has been the prime mover this season, with the presence of Cork City, Waterford and Galway United piquing interest. The 43,561 supporters inside the grounds this year accounts for a 99 percent surge on the 2019 equivalent. The average gate over the 34 games so far is 1,281.
League leaders Cork City feature twice among the 10 best-attended matches this season. Despite playing First Division football, only Shamrock Rovers have bettered the incredible 4,984 Cork attracted for the first home fixture against Galway United in February.
Cork’s derby against Cobh Ramblers, also at Turner’s Cross, is sixth on the list with 4,240. Cobh’s crowds have also vastly improved, spiking almost three-fold to 917. Friday's derby at St Colman’s Park is shaping up to their largest attendance for over a decade.
Damien Duff’s arrival into the league for his first senior managerial role has proven a boon for Shelbourne. Their games at Tolka Park against St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers have also made the top 10 cut.