Saturday 25 March 2017

Record breaker

Enduring football rivals ensure that league final double-header will be a Croke Park sell-out on day of celebration for the GAA

Kerry’s Bryan Sheehan and Denis Bastick of Dublin are both looking to get their hands on the Allianz NFL Division 1 trophy at Croke Park tomorrow. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Kerry’s Bryan Sheehan and Denis Bastick of Dublin are both looking to get their hands on the Allianz NFL Division 1 trophy at Croke Park tomorrow. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

A record attendance for Allianz Football League finals will be set tomorrow when a sell-out crowd watches Dublin v Kerry and Cavan v Tyrone in Croke Park.

The games will be followed by 'LAOCHRA', the GAA's commemorative production to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising.

The GAA has reported that a small number of Hill 16 tickets was all that remained on sale yesterday and that they are expected to be snapped up today.

Croke Park's capacity is slightly reduced because of a large screen on Hill 16 but it can still cater for close to 80,000.

The record attendance for a league final is 70,126, set in 1964 when Dublin, the reigning All-Ireland champions, beat Down in the 'home' decider before playing New York in the outright final.

A crowd of 81,678 attended the Dublin v Tyrone first round game in 2007, marking the introduction of floodlights to Croke Park, while 80,000 attended the opening game in 2009, which launched the GAA's 125th anniversary celebrations.

The gods have smiled on the GAA by delivering the biggest possible draw for the Division 1 final (3.30) as Dublin and Kerry head for the latest round of their enduring rivalry.

The Cavan v Tyrone Division 2 final (1.30) is also an attractive game on a weekend when the Croke Park action begins today with the Antrim v Louth Division 4 final (4.0), followed by the Clare v Kildare Division 3 final (6.0).

However, main interest will centre on Dublin v Kerry as Jim Gavin's men attempt to win the league title for a fourth successive year, a feat last achieved in 1971-'74 by Kerry.

Preventing Dublin from reaching that milestone will be another motivating factor for a Kerry team seeking to win the league title for the first time since 2009.

Memories of the defeat by Dublin in last year's All-Ireland final are still painful for Kerry, who have a poor record against their great rivals in recent times, having lost eight of the last 10 league and championship games.

"There's no shadow-boxing - it's a big game in Croke Park and the fact that there's 1916 celebrations on as well adds a bit of glamour to it.

"It's a game we want to win and it's a game we're going up to win," said Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

Despite their good record against Kerry over the past six years, Dublin manager Jim Gavin believes it will have no relevance tomorrow.

"We've never traded off the past. It's always about the next game," he said.

Dublin, who are seeking their 12th league title, have already beaten Kerry this year, winning by six points in the opening round of the league in late January.

Kerry, who are bidding for their 20th league crown, lost their next outing to Roscommon but have since won six successive games. Dublin have won all eight League games so far.

The 'LAOCHRA' show will start 20 minutes after the Dublin-Kerry game and will last for 30 minutes.

Irish Independent

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