PALTRY allocation an insult to Sky Blue brigade.
IT’S not all good news when your county qualifies for an All-Ireland final, and Dublin’s Sky Blue Army are about to discover the painful flip side of making the quantum leap into September.
Comments from Dublin chairman Andy Kettle, speculating that his county board will only get an official allocation of 8,000 tickets, puts into stark focus the ticket chaos that’s about to descend on the capital.
If that figure ultimately proves on the money, then it is scandalously low and an affront to all those loyal supporters who turned out in force for Dublin’s four-game Spring Series during the National League.
Remember, Dessie Farrell’s Dub Cubs have also qualified for the All-Ireland minor decider and that brings with it an automatic boost to Parnell Park’s allocation.
In that case, how can 8,000 – less than 10pc of Croke Park’s 82,300 capacity – be deemed a fair allocation?
Even if you take out the 10,000 or so premium tickets, it still seems far too low a percentage.
It wouldn’t be fair for any other |county in a similar position, competing on two final fronts ... and Dublin, as
GAA chiefs continually remind us, is a special case. Not that special, evidently.
Now, doubtless, 31 other counties will declare this as sour grapes from the city big-wigs. They will argue (with some justification) that Dublin clubs had no problem taking their ticket allocations for every All-Ireland football final between the years 1996 and 2010, when their county wasn’t involved. So why should it be any different this September?
They will also point out – accurately – that a sizeable percentage of fans now claiming membership of the Dublin Diehard Brigade didn’t darken the door of Croke Park until last Sunday’s semi-final against Donegal, watched by 81,435.
That was the first full house of 2011. Dublin’s previous highest attendance was 58,723 for the Leinster semi-final against Kildare in June. Almost 30,000 seats were empty for Dublin’s quarter-final against Tyrone.
But this relative dip in Dublin’s massive support is merely a direct result of the painful recession that is gripping the nation.
Where would the GAA have been without the Dubs over the past decade? You can’t forget that 75,000-plus attendances in August, July, even June, have been a routine feature and it’s all thanks to those fans who came out to support the teams of Tommy Lyons, Paul Caffrey and, more recently, Pat Gilroy in the new Croker.
As for the Spring Series, Dublin attracted attendances of 35,028 (versus the Cork footballers and Tipp hurlers), 23,720 (against Kerry), 18,960 (against Mayo, when pleas to move the game to a night slot fell on deaf ears) and 35,264 (for the final double-header against the Kilkenny hurlers and Down footballers).
If you do the rudimentary maths, that means a huge number of Dubs who attended most, if not all, of their home league games this spring will be left watching at home as Dublin compete in their first All-Ireland final since 1995.
Now, hopefully this touted figure of 8,000 is only an ‘initial’ allocation and that several more thousand tickets will make their way to the big chiefs in Donnycarney.
But Dublin’s dilemma does raise the annual bugbear about how All-Ireland final tickets are distributed. Yes, it is a national event.
Yes, it is an occasion to be savoured by all, not just the people of Dublin, Kerry and Galway (who are in the minor decider).
But when GAA officials in far-flung corners of the planet find it easier to access a golden ticket than some ever-present partisan supporter, you’ve got to ask is this the best way forward?
MEMO to all Dublin football devotees … Pat Gilroy’s squad are having an open training session in Parnell Park this Friday evening, starting at 7pm, and supporters are free to come along and watch their heroes limbering up for their All-Ireland showdown with Kerry on September 18.