Tuesday 25 April 2017

Croke Park expecting bumper crowd at league finals

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Sunday's double-header at Croke Park is set to draw the biggest attendance at the Allianz Football League finals for 47 years.

Indeed, there's a possibility that the previous highest attendance for the final -- 70,126 when Dublin beat Down in 1964 -- could be beaten, although Croke Park chiefs say that would be on the optimistic side. Nevertheless, the stage is set for an extremely large turn-out for two very attractive games.

Coming after the highly successful Spring Series at Croke Park and good crowds around the country too, it's a major boost for the GAA's finances and, by extension, all 33 participating counties who share the league dividend.

Dublin's return to the Division 1 final for the first time since 1999 has prompted the dramatic upswing in interest and with reigning All-Ireland and league champions Cork as their opponents, it's increasing all the time.

The Division 2 final between Laois and Donegal is also very appealing.

The largest attendance at a final over the last 20 years was in 1993, when a crowd of 59,703 saw Dublin beat Donegal in a replay at Croke Park. Then, as now, Dublin's opponents were reigning All-Ireland champions.

While Sunday's attendance is expected to be very high, it won't match the record crowd for a league game at Croke Park, set in early 2007 when over 82,000 turned out for the Dublin-Tyrone clash which marked the switch-on of the new floodlights.

Last year's Division 1 and 2 finals (Cork v Mayo; Armagh v Down) drew a crowd of 27,005, yielding gate receipts of €356,847. That averages €13.20 per person and with next Sunday's attendance certainly not expected to be less than 60,000, it will return almost €800,000.

There are also high expectations that the attendance at the hurling league final on Sunday week will be larger than usual. It features Dublin, who are back in the final for the first time in 65 years, against Kilkenny who are bidding for their sixth title in 10 years.

It will be preceded by the All-Ireland U-21 football final between Cavan and Galway, a fixture which would be expected to draw 10,000 in its own right.

Irish Independent

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