Dublin's sell-out days at Croker no more

 

THE DAYS of Dublin guaranteeing an 82,300 capacity crowd for football matches at Croke Park are well and truly over. Not even as All-Ireland champions, facing Mayo on Sunday to see who meets Donegal in the final on September 23rd, are the GAA expecting the attendance to break the 70,000 mark.

A figure close to the 69,957 that showed up to see Dublin and Meath play the Leinster final on July 22nd would be considered a successful return.

“The phenomenon of 80,000 crowds in Croke Park for Dublin games in the mid-2000s was something we all enjoyed but historically, it wasn’t the norm,” said GAA operations manager Fergal McGill.

“We are expecting well in access of 60,000 for Sunday’s semi-final.”

That would be the second-best attended fixture in either the football or hurling championship this year, with last weekend’s football semi-final between Donegal and Cork holding that spot after 55,169, mostly from Donegal, showed up.

The All-Ireland finals in both football and hurling are the only guaranteed sell-outs in Croke Park as it is now accepted that the Dublin footballers attracting 80,000-plus supporters was an occurrence that belongs to the Celtic Tiger years.

“I think a lot of people forget the full capacity for Dublin football games was an exception rather than the rule,” McGill continued. “Dublin throughout the 1980s and 1990s always attracted large crowds but few sell-outs. The 1983 semi-final against Cork was not sold out, neither was the semi against Mayo in 1985. And full capacity back then was 63,000.”

The only exception was the full house for game four of the epic Dublin versus Meath series in 1991.

The association are also confident the presence of 35,000 American tourists in Dublin for Saturday’s College football game at the Aviva Stadium – tagged the Emerald Isle Classic – between Navy and Notre Dame will not have a negative impact on the second All-Ireland football semi-final.

“We don’t think it will affect our attendance,” McGill continued. “It’s true nowadays that people only go to the odd event but for the Irish person that attends the American football out of curiosity there should be a few Americans coming to Croke Park for the same reason.”

The Emerald Isle Classic is worth €100 million to the Irish economy, according to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar “I’m delighted that this high-profile game is associated so closely with The Gathering Ireland 2013, which will be promoted intensively to the 35,000 travelling Americans, and to a US TV audience of some three million on CBS and ESPN,” said Varadkar.

“The Gathering is spending more than €600,000 on sponsoring and marketing this game and inviting people to be part of the celebrations next year.”

The Navy-Notre Dame game is not, however, being broadcast on terrestrial television.


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