Moments of the year: Dublin surf record crowd to redemption
An attendance of over 46,000 at the Ladies’ All-Ireland final showed what can be done
Dublin and Mayo parade before the start of the TG4 Ladies’ All-Ireland final at Croke Park in September. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Nobody, you’d guess, would be more surprised than Dáithí Ó Sé himself to learn that he provided one of 2017’s most memorable moments in women’s sport. But the task of announcing the attendance at September’s All-Ireland football final fell to the Rose of Tralee-presenting man at half-time, and the figure he shared with the crowd was a heartening one: 46,286.
The numbers that ultimately mattered that day might have been the ones that appeared on the scoreboard come the game’s end, 4-11 to 0-11, signalling the cessation of Dublin’s torment at Croke Park, having being beaten in the previous three finals by Cork. They lost two of them by a single point, another by two, but instead of descending in to the doldrums, they just dug a little deeper and resolved to keep on keeping on. Few All-Ireland titles were, then, more richly deserved.
But there was probably as much post-game chat about the size of the crowd as there was about Dublin’s success. Not unreasonably, either.
We heard all the comparisons at the time. The women’s rugby World Cup final: 17,115. The women’s Champions League final: 22,433. The women’s European Championship football final: 28,182. The women’s English FA Cup final: 35,271. And so on.
The highest attendance in Europe for a women’s sporting event, plenty to be proud of. But it’s more instructive to measure like with like, ourselves with ourselves. Only five years earlier 30,000 fewer turned up for the final between Cork and Kerry, and if there’s a pairing in next year’s final that doesn’t quite stoke the public’s interest as the Dubs v Cora’s Mayo did, then the attendance could well fall significantly below 2017’s record crowd.
And we shouldn’t kid ourselves either, the crowds at the games leading up to the final were generally miserably low. If as many turned up at them as complained about them, they would have been decent.
But 46,286 – and TG4’s record viewership (a peak of 409,700 watched the final) – showed the potential when the offering is enticing and supporters of the women’s game put in some collective hard graft to promote it. If it’s maintained, then hopefully that’ll be an end to talk of double-headers with the lads.
It’s hard to erase the memory of that annihilation by Denmark in the second leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff. So close, yet light years away in the end. Most disappointed for the fine young fella that is James McClean who contributed so much to the campaign. Hopefully he’ll make it to the World Cup yet.