GAA insist Croke Park will be pitch perfect
The surface of the Croke Park pitch won't be affected by the traffic involved in three concerts and the Eucharistic Congress mass in just over a week, stadium director Peter McKenna has guaranteed.
The last of the three concerts in five days takes place tonight when the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform and the work of taking down the stage will begin almost immediately after the stadium is cleared.
The stage has been up for 16 days and the pitch has been covered for all but three of those days. But McKenna insists the pitch will be in near perfect condition with just the section where the stage is being replaced.
In 2010, Croke Park undertook the mammoth task of lifting the entire sod in the wake of U2's three concerts.
But this time the task is nowhere nearly as onerous and with the experience of U2 and last year after the Take That concert, McKenna has no doubt about the quality of the surface for the two Leinster semi-finals between Meath and Kildare and Dublin and Wexford.
"You can never be too confident with something like this but it's nothing like what we did in 2010. The covers came off for three days but they let in enough light anyway when they were down to allow for photosynthesis to happen," he said. "It should be ready for cutting on Friday and Saturday."
Meanwhile, Leinster Council are expecting the biggest crowd of the season for their plum double-header, but the anticipated figure will fall well short of the 58,000-plus that went through the turnstiles for last year's semi-finals involving three of the same teams -- Dublin, Kildare and Wexford.
Meath's presence on the ticket instead of Carlow would suggest the potential for a bigger crowd but the fact that Dublin and Kildare are not meeting will have an impact, Leinster chief executive Michael Delaney has admitted.
"Advance ticket sales are a little slow but we'd be hoping for something in the region of 45,000," Delaney said. "If Dublin were playing Kildare, as they were last year, it would be a lot different," he admitted.
Delaney has expressed satisfaction with attendances in the provincial championships to date despite a low turnout in Portlaoise on Saturday for the Leinster hurling semi-final.
In Ulster, a 19pc rise in attendances has been reported on the back of significant price decreases announced prior to the championship. After six games in the Ulster SFC, 72,860 spectators have gone through the turnstiles compared to 61,354 in 2011.
Ulster president Aoghan Farrell has welcomed the rise in numbers, which could offset the financial hit taken by the drop in prices.
"Some 11,506 more people have attended Championship 2012 than Championship 2011," he said. "It is clear that the reduction of admission prices, free admission for all children under 16 to non-ticket games, coupled with a strong marketing campaign, has been well received by our members and supporters."