GAA U-turn on seclusion zone as semi-final ticket demand hits fever pitch
DESPITE the GAA's widely voiced safety concerns about pitch invasions, they have done away with their own 'seclusion zone' in the front of the Croke Park stands tomorrow because the All-Ireland SFC semi-final is a sellout.
The initial plan was to hold back around 2,000 pitch-side tickets for the Cork versus Dublin clash, so that the recent security precaution of sealing off the first three rows of the Hogan, Cusack and Davin Stands could continue.
But the GAA have patently put profit ahead of their own new security policy by announcing yesterday that those seats had become available for sale -- indicating that tomorrow's game will be the first this season to come near HQ's 82,300-capacity.
Since the pitch invasion after the Leinster football final, the GAA have been sealing off the front three rows of all stand seats with orange mesh, in order to block people getting over them and onto the pitch.
They had indicated that they might suspend this policy this weekend if they needed the tickets.
The GAA released a statement yesterday saying: "Due to the huge demand for tickets to Sunday's GAA football semi-final between Cork and Dublin, the front three rows of the lower tiers have now been released for purchase."
They said the additional €45 adult stand tickets (€5 for U-16s) would be available from the usual outlets while stocks lasted and also said there were a "handful" of terrace tickets (€30) still available, which indicated that Hill 16 had not yet sold out.
Under the new security arrangements, a 2.8metre-high barrier is being erected in front of Hill 16, which the GAA say is usually the starting point for pitch invasions, but that will not be in place until next weekend's second semi-final between Down and Kildare.
Earlier this week GAA communications manager Alan Milton said: "Obviously we can't stand over empty seats if the demand is there, so we will be reviewing the matter on a daily basis."
But it remains to be seen if this late change of plan has any security repercussions in the GAA's tough battle to keep fans off the pitch.
The highest Croke Park attendance this summer was the Dublin/Tyrone and Down/Kerry SFC quarter-final double-header, which drew a crowd of 62,749.
Last weekend's hurling semi-final between Tipperary and Waterford attracted less than 50,000 (49,754) and the crowd for the Kilkenny versus Cork SHC semi-final was even smaller at 41,060.