Lowest crowd in decade due for final


LOUTH MAY be providing a highly novel presence in Sunday’s Leinster football final – their first final appearance in 50 years, to be exact – but it means the likely attendance will be the lowest in at least a decade. No more than 45,000-50,000 are expected in Croke Park on Sunday for their meeting with Meath, well below the stadium capacity of 82,300.

Four of the last five Leinster football finals drew a crowd of 80,000 or higher, the obvious difference there being the involvement of Dublin. The 2006 Leinster final, when Dublin beat Offaly, remains the highest of the decade with 81,754 in attendance, and there were similar crowds in 2005 (81,025, when Dublin beat Laois), in 2007 (81,394, when Dublin beat Laois) and in 2008 (80,112, when Dublin beat Wexford).

Last year’s final, when Dublin beat Kildare to claim their fifth provincial crown on the trot, drew 74,572. The lowest attendance of the decade was the 2004 final between Westmeath and Laois, which drew 56,440 (and actually went to a replay) while before that the 2003, 2002 and 2001 finals drew 61,786, 78,033 and 66,275 respectively.

“We would certainly be expecting upwards of 40,000,” said GAA press officer Alan Milton. “There has been a big take-up in Louth this week, definitely. But whenever Dublin aren’t involved you would expect a drop in the attendance, because no team draws the same sort of crowd as they do.”

Dublin, of course, are out in Croke Park tomorrow evening in their All-Ireland football qualifier second round match against Tipperary, which has a 6pm throw-in – and forms part of double-header with Dublin’s All-Ireland hurling qualifier against Clare, which has a 4pm start. Tickets for the double-header will be available from the usual outlets outside Croke Park, although in this case, no more than 25,000 are expected.

“Our projections at this stage are between 20,000 and 25,000,” said Milton. “Probably 25,000, but not much more than that. Although it’s still hard to know, even at this stage. We don’t know how many Dublin supporters will come in to see the hurlers as well, but obviously the attendance stands for both games. But there is good value for a double-header.”

All stand tickets are priced at €20, Hill 16 at €15, and family tickets (one adult, two children) at €20 and €5. All match day outlets will open tomorrow at 10am; Dorset St, GAA Ticket Shop on North Circular Road (opposite Gill’s Pub), and the GAA Ticket Outlet on the Ballybough Road/Clonliffe Road junction.

The draw for the third round of the All-Ireland football qualifiers will take place on Sunday evening, at 6.45pm, in Thurles – shortly after the conclusion of the Munster hurling final. This is a straightforward affair as it involves the eight round two winners from this weekend playing off against each other in four matches. Like the second round, the first team drawn will have home advantage, with all four matches due to be played on Saturday week, July 17th.

The four winners will then progress to play the four beaten provincial finalists in the last round, with those four games due to be played on Saturday, July 24th.

There is also the potential for a hurling qualifier draw on Sunday evening, but only if Limerick manage to beat Offaly. Otherwise, Offaly will play phase one winners Tipperary, and the winners of Dublin and Clare will play Antrim – the reason there being Offaly have already played Antrim. The two phase three games are also down for next Saturday, July 17th.

Meanwhile, Armagh’s 2002 All-Ireland winning team will be reunited for the first time tomorrow to play an exhibition game against a rest of Ireland select – the centrepiece to a summer carnival in aid of the Keady GAA Club Field Development Fund. The game begins at 7.30pm in the Keady GAA grounds.

Also, a cross-community Gaelic football team from Enniskillen, who are preparing for a trip of a lifetime to Long Island in New York to compete in the Under-16 Continental Youth Championships later this month, was yesterday honoured at Croke Park by GAA director general Páraic Duffy.

The panel of 20 is made up of players from four schools in Enniskillen, and formed earlier this year as part of Ulster GAA’s Outreach Project “The Cúchulainn Cup” – which brings together young men from different backgrounds to participate in Gaelic games. All the boys had little or no experience playing Gaelic football before getting involved with the team.