Bumper crowds expected at Croke Park as hurling returns

Over 120,000 fans are expected to attend the All-Ireland hurling semi-finals this weekend

Limerick were beaten by Kilkenny in 2014 the last time they appeared in an All-Ireland semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Limerick were beaten by Kilkenny in 2014 the last time they appeared in an All-Ireland semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Croke Park is poised for its first properly bumper attendance of the summer - with this weekend’s All-Ireland hurling semi-finals set to draw in excess of 120,000 between them.

Sunday’s showdown between Munster champions Cork and Limerick (3.30pm) is proving particularly attractive and with 35,000 tickets sold in Limerick already that game now likely to draw over 70,000; All-Ireland champions Galway face Clare in the other semi-final on Saturday evening (5pm) and that game is expected to attract a crowd of over 50,000.

Attendances in Croke Park so far this summer have been somewhat underwhelming. The opening round of the Super 8s fell short of expectations with Tyrone-Roscommon and Dublin-Donegal last Saturday week drawing 53,501, while only 30,740 showed up to watch Kildare-Monaghan and Kerry-Galway on the Sunday (it did however clash with the World Cup final).

Both Leinster finals in Croke Park barely broke the 40,000 mark. All-Ireland champions Dublin against Laois in the football drew 41,728, while the drawn hurling final between All-Ireland champions Galway and Kilkenny had an attendance of 40,703.

No such worries this weekend. Cork and Limerick have met already this summer, drawing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Round 2 of the Munster ‘round robin’, Limerick reduced to 14 men for most of that match after losing Aaron Gillane to a red card. Cork are in the semi-final for a second successive year (losing to Waterford last season), Limerick were last in the semi-final in 2014 (losing to Kilkenny).

“There is fierce interest,” Limerick secretary Mike O’Riordan told the Limerick Leader. “Everyone is talking about the game and people want to be there.”

Limerick had been hoping to make Sunday a minor-senior semi-final double, only for Kilkenny to end those hopes over the weekend in the minor quarter-final. Saturday’s game will be preceded by the Dublin against Galway in one minor semi-final (3.0), Sunday’s game preceded by Kilkenny against Tipperary in the other minor semi-final (1.30pm). Both senior games will be televised live on both RTE and Sky Sports with the minor games broadcast on TG4.

Limerick come in fresh from their first championship win over Kilkenny since 1973, beating them 0-27 to 1-22 in Thurles last Sunday week: that happened to be their last All-Ireland senior success in Limerick as well, some supporters in the county making the potentially fateful link between the two.

While welcoming the keen interest in the game, Limerick manager John Kiely isn’t being distracted by it either: “Support is fantastic, but the numbers travelling to the match don’t concern us, that’s outside of our area of concern. It’s up to the county board to deal with.

“A lot of our lads have played in Croke Park with minors, colleges and club All Irelands and the more senior lads have played there before so it’s just another ground.”

Weekend fixtures

Saturday

All-Ireland SHC semi-final

Galway v Clare, Croke Park, 5pm (Live on RTE/Sky)

All-Ireland MHC semi-final

Dublin v Galway, Croke Park, 3pm (Live on TG4)

All-Ireland MFC quarter-finals

Kerry v Roscommon, Gaelic Grounds, 3pm

Derry v Meath, Athletic Grounds, 3pm

Kildare v Monaghan, Cusack Park, Mullingar, 3pm

Sunday

All-Ireland SHC semi-final

Cork v Limerick, Croke Park, 3.30pm (Live on RTE/Sky)

All-Ireland MHC semi-final

Tipperary v Kilkenny, Croke Park, 1.30pm (Live on TG4)

All-Ireland MFC quarter-final

Galway v Clare, O’Connor Park, 1.30pm

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