Full house for latest Mayo and Galway battle
The 'full house' signs will be going up for a Connacht SFC tie this weekend for the first time in 16 years when Mayo and Galway renew their rivalry.
All 28,000 tickets are expected to be sold for the clash as Galway bid for their third win in a row over their neighbours in the first of the big games of the 2018 championship.
Stand tickets for MacHale Park sold out over a week ago and Connacht Council secretary John Prenty said he expects the remainder of the terrace tickets to be gone before Sunday's clash. There has not been this demand for tickets since 30,000 crammed into Tuam Stadium to witness Mayo defeat reigning All-Ireland champions Galway in 2002.
Since then, of course, health and safety stipulations have reduced the capacity at grounds but long-serving Prenty said he has not seen such demand for a game for years.
"That match back in 2002 in Tuam was probably the last time there was this demand, but it shows how strong the game in Connacht is as well.
"I suppose since the fixtures were made this was one game which stood out, not just in Connacht but throughout the country.
"There is talk of Galway on the way up and maybe Mayo on the way down but we will know a lot more after Sunday. There is huge interest in the match," said the Mayo native.
Mayo and Galway have dominated Connacht down through the years, winning 91 of the 119 titles so far.
Mayo's five-in-a-row to 2015 sees them edge the Tribesmen by 46 crowns to 45.
Roscommon are next with 23, Sligo won their third in 2007 and Leitrim their second provincial title in 1994.
Stand tickets priced at €35 have been snapped up for the game, with terrace tickets - the stadium is all-seater - costing €25 for the match and it's expected these will sell out in advance.
Next year three Connacht teams will feature in Division 1 of the National League for the first time, with Roscommon having recently secured promotion to join Galway and Mayo in the top flight.
The two minnows in the province, Sligo and Leitrim, are through to the Connacht semi-finals after successfully negotiating tricky assignments in London and New York at the weekend.
Prenty said that this was the strongest they had seen the game in the province for a long time.
"Having three teams in Division 1 is a boost. I remember back in 2000 all four semi-finalists in the league came from Connacht, with Mayo beating Roscommon and Galway defeating Sligo in the semi-finals.
"It's a good Connacht Championship. We have seen the big improvements in London and New York in recent years.
"Those trips made our provincial championship unique, there's hardly a club in Connacht that doesn't have someone in either city.
"Sunday will be a big day and the interest and the crowd that will in it is testimony to the quality of the two teams and to the stadium. But let's not forget Roscommon are the Connacht champions and they might again be this year.
"Sunday will be a big win for whichever side comes through it but they will still have to win another two games in order to win the Connacht title," added Prenty.