SERIOUS alarm bells have sounded for the GAA after it emerged that advance ticket sales for tomorrow's big Leinster football double-bill at Croke Park are drastically low.
Leinster Council confirmed to the Irish Independent that they had only pre-sold 25,000 tickets by close of business yesterday.
A crowd of 49,757 watched two quarter-finals on the same bill 12 months ago, when three of tomorrow's four teams -- Dublin, Meath and Laois -- were involved. With Kildare also involved, the two games feature the traditionally best-supported teams in the province. Leinster are now reliant on walk-up sales and premium ticket-holders to get anything over 40,000 through the gates.
And unless late sales radically boost their numbers, there is a danger that they may not even break even on what should be one of their biggest pay-days. This is the starkest indicator yet that the GAA's unrivalled ability to get fans through the turnstiles in the summer has been dramatically affected by the recession.
Leinster are offering four types of ticket discounts this year, but are still clearly struggling to hold on to dwindling numbers.
There is a school of thought that live television has also substantially contributed to falling attendances and the GAA have cut back on the number of live TV games this year.
But both of tomorrow's games at HQ are being broadcast live, with Kildare versus Meath on RTE (2.0) and Dublin v Laois on TV3 (4.0).
Leinster were disappointed last week when their switch of the Dublin/Offaly SHC match to Croke Park only attracted 14,000.