Saturday 24 August 2019

Croke Park still right venue for semi-finals - Leinster chief

Jim Bolger, Leinster GAA Chairman. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Jim Bolger, Leinster GAA Chairman. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Leinster GAA chairman Jim Bolger insists he is "happy enough" despite an expected attendance of just below 30,000 at Sunday's provincial football semi-final double-header in Croke Park.

Such paltry numbers considering the respective populations of Dublin, Meath and Kildare and their large support base are glaringly low with Leinster coffers set to take a significant hit once again, having declined by 30pc last year.

Dublin's monopoly of the Delaney Cup - they have won 13 of the last 14 titles - has contributed to crippling attendances and just 16,000 tickets had been purchased as of yesterday.

That means the Leinster Council will be lucky to break even at GAA HQ but Bolger is satisfied with the expected crowds despite the enormous drop-off in recent years.

"We're looking at just under 30,000 at the moment - 16,000 (are sold) so we'd be hopeful enough, there seems to be a little bit of a spurt now at this juncture," Bolger said.

"So we're happy enough the way things are going in that regard. We hope it would break 30,000. Initially we thought between 30-35000, but it's hard to put a handle on it."

“There’s a big interest in Dublin given the year that’s in it, what we’re getting anecdotally anyway is that a lot of fans want to go to as many matches as possible because of the historic potential of the season.”

Just 14,380 attended the recent quarter-finals in Portlaoise featuring Dublin, Louth, Meath and Carlow, and Sunday’s double bill could be another low point, although Bolger expects such occasions to remain at GAA HQ.

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“If it comes to a stage where we think we should take the semi-finals out we would do that as well, but at the moment 30,000 is still a significant crowd and we couldn’t accommodate it anywhere other than Croke Park.”

The idea of a second-tier football championship will be put to Central Council later this month and while Bolger admits “it’s hard to get a one-size-fits-all”, he expects “the right proposal” to be passed.

“Probably the broader feeling is that there is a need for a second tier, at least a second tier and you could argue for easily for a third tier, similar to what we are used to at club — junior, intermediate and senior,” Bolger said.

Meanwhile, Cavan’s Conor Moynagh is free to face Armagh in Sunday’s Ulster semi-final replay despite picking up black cards in three consecutive games.

The defender was black carded in their last league game against Dublin and again against Monaghan and Armagh in recent Ulster Championship games.

But black cards picked up in the league, where an experimental sin-bin was used instead of a replacement, are not part of the process which results in a one-match ban for three black cards.

Elsewhere, Leitrim manager Terry Hyland has made two changes for tomorrow’s SFC qualifier against Wicklow in Carrick-on-Shannon, with Oisín McCaffrey and Aidan Flynn coming into the team.

Leitrim – C McCrann; P Maguire, M McWeeney, A Flynn; C Reynolds, M Plunkett, R Mulvey; O McCaffrey, S Moran; D Flynn, S McWeeney, S Quinn; E Sweeney, P Dolan, R O’Rourke

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