Dublin to count cost of missing 10,000
Playing the Dublin-Mayo Allianz Football League game in Croke Park on Sunday week, rather than the previous Friday night, will lead to an attendance drop of at least 10,000.
That's the prediction of Dublin CEO John Costello, who has expressed dismay at the refusal of the Central Competitions Control Committee to accede to a request to bring forward the game.
"We'll be doing our best to maximise the attendance but I've no doubt that whatever crowd we get on Sunday would have been beaten by 10,000 on the Friday night," said Costello.
"I can't see the logic in the CCCC's decision. Dublin wanted to use the St Patrick's Day festivities to enhance the Spring Series; Mayo were happy to play on the Friday night and we have no doubt the public would have responded but the CCCC said 'no'. It's very disappointing."
However, the CCCC has defended the decision, citing issues which they claim had to be taken into account.
"We don't go for midweek games -- and we'd put Friday night games in that category -- unless we have to. They impact on players, officials, supporters and stewards," said Fergal McGill, head of games administration and player welfare
"Also, the league fixtures were announced last November but it's only recently that there was any suggestion of bringing forward the game to the Friday night. This wasn't an easy decision for the CCCC but they felt it was the correct one in the circumstances."
Costello explained that it was only when it became clear that Mayo wouldn't have Connacht U-21 championship commitments on March 19 that the attempt to bring forward the NFL clash could be advanced.
"In fairness to Mayo, they couldn't agree to the Friday night if they had an U-21 clash the following day. When that was out of the way, they were happy to go with the Friday. Dublin had a big marketing plan ready to go," he said.
"We could have exploited the St Patrick's weekend by playing the game in between the All-Ireland club finals on the Thursday and the Ireland-England rugby game on the Saturday. There will be a lot of overseas visitors around and we felt we had a better chance to getting them to Croke Park on the Friday night than the Sunday. We'll still be trying but I doubt if it will work as well."
Among the initiatives planned was an arrangement with Dublin sponsors Vodafone to issue text alerts to people arriving in Ireland for the weekend, informing them of the game.
"The Dublin and Mayo players, managements and county boards were happy to play the game on the Friday night so I can't understand why objections were raised," said Costello.
McGill said that while the CCCC expected to be criticised for their decision, they had to be conscious of the bigger picture.
"Switching a game which has been in the diary for March 20 for months would have had a backlash in some quarters. There are people from Mayo who would have made arrangements to travel on the Sunday and I can guarantee that if we'd changed at this late stage, we'd have got lots of complaints.
"We want to see as many people as possible at our games but we've also got to think of the overall picture," he said.
Nonetheless, it does look like a lost opportunity for the GAA. Dublin were convinced that the Friday night would have been much more successful than Sunday afternoon and, with Mayo coming on board, hopes were high for a crowd of well over 30,000.
Some NFL and senior championship games have been played on Wednesday/ Thursday/Friday nights in the past.
Cork played Kerry in the NFL in Pairc Ui Rinn on a Friday in 2005; Antrim played Dublin in the NHL in Casement Park on a Wednesday in 2007; Limerick played Clare in the NHL in the Gaelic Grounds on a Thursday in April 2001, and Limerick played Offaly in an All-Ireland qualifier in Thurles on a Thursday in 2003.