DUBLIN GAA chiefs have admitted that the ‘Spring Series’ could prove a harder sell next year following the hurlers’ demotion to Division 1B of the Allianz League.
However, they remain full committed to the concept of playing Dublin’s home league games in both football and hurling at Croke Park, with chairman Andy Kettle declaring: “That would be my belief, absolutely”.
The Spring Series has been running for the last two years, providing an excellent promotional tool for Dublin’s two flagship teams and, perhaps even more so, for the National Leagues.
The majority of double-header fixtures have been played under floodlights on a Saturday night. Attendances last year generally ranged between the 25,000 and 35,000 mark.
This year’s opener - featuring a football curtain-raiser between Tyrone and Kildare, followed by a rematch of last year’s Dublin/Kerry All-Ireland final - attracted a very healthy 45,838.
This was followed by crowds of 24,886 for the Sunday afternoon double-header involving Dublin/Cork (hurling) and Dublin/Armagh (football) and then 23,885 for the Saturday night clashes of Dublin/Tipperary (hurling) and Dublin/Donegal (football).
However, with the Sky Blue hurlers losing their top-flight status following defeat to Galway last Saturday, there are concerns at Donnycarney HQ and this could impact on attendances next year. By how much remains open to conjecture.
“It’s a fact that you won’t have as attractive matches as you would have had with Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork,” Kettle told the Evening Herald.
“A home draw against Limerick would probably be the prize (draw) for next year. But again, it’s not running down any of the other teams in Division 1B. A lot will depend on how we do in the Liam MacCarthy Cup this year, and people will come to see the hurlers for themselves rather than to see the opposition.”
The Dublin chairman admitted it was “impossible to judge” what impact the hurlers had on Spring Series attendances, given that Pat Gilroy’s footballers are still seen as a much bigger draw.
“We would be speculating,” Kettle said. “We had the All-Ireland champions and runners-up last year and they were fantastic opposition - you would assume that they would boost attendances. But again, the Dublin hurling following is the one we hope to grow.”
Declaring his own commitment to the concept, he added: “It has been good for everybody. You even saw (Galway manager) Anthony Cunningham’s remarks the other evening, that it gives counties an opportunity to play in Croke Park.
“It’s also good for us because our ground in Parnell Park has a maximum capacity of about 9,500 to 10,000. And it’s good for the people in Croke Park that they have extra games to give to their corporate patrons.”
Meanwhile, Kettle has reiterated Dublin’s ongoing opposition to this year’s NHL format - and insisted it was not a case of sour grapes in the wake of relegation.
This season, you had six teams in Division 1A and six in 1B rather than the old format of an eight-team top-flight and an eight-team Division Two.
Asked if Dublin might launch a fresh campaign to restore the status quo, Kettle said: “It would be difficult for Dublin to lead a charge on it, because it would be seen as sour grapes, and it would be seen possibly that we are ‘entitled’ to be there because we are Dublin - which is not the case.
“But it’s for the overall good of the promotion of hurling ... people will say there were excellent games in this format, but when you get down to the third tier it gets a bit ropey.”