Sunday 19 November 2017

Dubs' three-year Croker plan

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

DUBLIN'S return to Croke Park for its Allianz League games is a three-year project, designed to transform 'floating' supporters who turn out only in summer into season-long backers of the football and hurling teams.

The experiment begins on Saturday when All-Ireland hurling and football champions, Tipperary and Cork take on Dublin at 5.15 and 7.30 respectively.

Dublin CEO John Costello said they were hoping for a crowd of 35,000.

"It's a start, but it's no more than that. We'd see this as a three-year project. It takes time to get people used to doing something new and obviously a lot of people weren't going to our league games in Parnell Park. We want to tap into the huge levels of support we get in Croke Park in summer and, luckily, the fixtures fell right for us this year, especially with the two All-Ireland champions due to play Dublin in the first round of the league. It was the right time to make a move," he said.

With Parnell Park's capacity capped at 10,000, it meant Dublin couldn't market league fixtures aggressively because, under rule, anything over 7,500 would have necessitated all-ticket games. History shows the public don't respond to all-ticket league games.

"There's probably a need for a 25,000 stadium in Dublin, but unfortunately we don't have it. Croke Park wasn't readily available to us for the last few years because of the rugby internationals, so this looked like the right time to try something new. Paraic Duffy, Tom Ryan, Dermot Power and Peter McKenna and others in Croke Park have all helped make this happen. We believe it'll work, but we need to be patient with it and not expect too much too soon," said Costello.

With adult tickets for the four-double headers priced at €45 (€20 for children) each, Costello is hoping for a big public response. Jedward provide the entertainment between the hurling and football games on Saturday.

"We think it's great value. There's something for everybody at a modest cost," said Costello. Dublin hoped to bring forward the football clash with Mayo from Sunday March 20 to Friday March 18, but it didn't work out.

The Saturday night programme will continue on Saturday week when Dublin take on Kerry (football) and Kilkenny (camogie). Mayo play Dublin in Croke Park on March 20, while it's Dublin v Down (football) and Kilkenny (hurling) in a double header on April 2.

Irish Independent

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