Tuesday 12 December 2017

Leinster concerned quarter-final double bill won't draw crowd

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Leinster Council officials are fearful the crowd for Sunday's double bill involving the province's three best-supported teams will not rise above 45,000.

If that figure is not passed it would be the starkest indication yet that crowds at championship matches are in deep spiral.

Munster and Ulster were both reasonably happy with the figures in Thurles and the Athletic Grounds last weekend.

But the involvement of Dublin, Kildare and Meath on the same bill will be the best indicator of the prevailing mood of supporters. A warm weekend is predicted but not even that has led to a surge in ticket sales so far.

Some 49,757 paid to watch two quarter-finals on the same bill 12 months ago when three of this Sunday's four teams -- Dublin, Meath and Laois -- were involved on a very wet day.

With Kildare, one of the best-supported championship teams, replacing Wexford on the bill, the expectation would be that the crowd would rise well above 50,000.

But senior Leinster Council officials are very guarded and feel that the crowd is more likely to come in at between 45,000 and 50,000 as economics kick in much more harshly than in 2010.

A Bank Holiday weekend, the fact that both matches are televised and an uncertainty as to whether Meath supporters will make the short trip in has led to a revision of the expected attendance. Even at €25 for the top-priced ticket, Leinster would view this double bill as one of their biggest paydays. Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly admitted he was disappointed with a crowd of just over 14,000 for last weekend's Croke Park meeting of Dublin and Offaly in the hurling championship, but still felt it was the right decision to move the game to Headquarters.

"Financially it wouldn't have been a success, but the fact that 5,000 more people were able to see the game made it worthwhile to move from Parnell Park," he said.

Meanwhile, Seamus Scanlon has been ruled out of the Kerry football team for Saturday's Munster semi-final against Limerick. Scanlon is not in a position to play because he is undergoing a minor medical procedure this week. It leaves Kerry with limited midfield options for the repeat of last year's Munster final.

Meath will hand championship debuts to two players in Sunday's Leinster quarter-final against Kildare. U21s Bryan Menton and Ciaran Lenehan will feature in the half back line in what is otherwise an experienced team. Jamie Queeney has forced his way into the half forward line but there is no place for reserve 'keeper Paddy O'Rourke in attack.

Meath (v Kildare) -- B Murphy; G O'Brien, K Reilly, S McAnarney; S Kenny (Capt), B Menton, C Lenehan; N Crawford, B Meade; J Queeney, S O'Rourke, G Reilly; S Bray, J Sheridan, C Ward

Irish Independent

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