Monday 22 January 2018

From the Stands: McIlroy's work pays off for Irish Open

Rory McIlroy is helping to drive demand for tickets to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
Rory McIlroy is helping to drive demand for tickets to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Dermot Gilleece & John Greene

Weekend tickets for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal Co Down on May 28-31 are expected to be officially sold out by Tuesday. In this context, the pace of demand is actually exceeding that for the record-breaking staging at Royal Portrush in 2012.

"It doesn't surprise me, especially in the light of events at Sawgrass," said championship director Antonia Beggs. "It was certainly a thrill to see Rickie Fowler on top of last Sunday's leaderboard, with Sergio Garcia in a play-off and Rory McIlroy and Jamie Donaldson as strong challengers, knowing they're all in the Irish Open field."

The European Tour official website added: "With tickets for Thursday and Friday also selling well, it proves the demand is there. Another significant difference from 2012 is that a massive majority have bought tickets for one or two days, unlike the season-tickets sold on that occasion.

"This reflects enormous credit on Rory. Having used his influence to spearhead a great field, people are really keen to see these top players in action."

Still, there can't be a record attendance because of the limit imposed of 20,000 per day, unlike Portrush, where the ceiling was 30,000. This accounted for an unprecedented cumulative figure of 112,280 over the four days. Last year, the corresponding total for Fota Island was 97,889.

McIlroy, Garcia and Fowler from the world's top 10 are among a total of 15 players from the top 50, compared with only three last year, when the Holywood star was joined by Graeme McDowell and Stephen Gallacher.

Where is the outcry? You have to ask. What of all the Gaels who have been treated so shockingly this weekend?

Yes, five senior football championship games over two days and only one of them being shown on RTE television, the big one this afternoon between Donegal and Tyrone.

Damn the GAA anyway for turning its back on its members and supporters, and especially on the people of Longford, Offaly, Carlow, Laois, Louth, Westmeath, Leitrim and Galway and allowing the games to be shown on pay per. . . Oh no, wait, what's that you say? They are not being shown anywhere, they're not even behind a pay wall. They're not even on GAAGO. But we thought Sky was the ruination of the GAA?

We're confused. Are we to conclude now that it doesn't matter what games are shown on television, so long as they are not on Sky? And if so, does that mean that the solution to the Sky controversy has been staring us in the face all along - don't show any games at all!

The two sides don't have anything in common - well, apart from the fact that they both wear distinctive red and black jerseys - but on Saturday next they will take part in an unusual friendly.

In their 31-year history, its doubtful Rossin Rovers, a small rural club in Co Meath, have welcomed more illustrious guests than Bohemians.

Bohs, currently fourth in the League of Ireland Premier Division, are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year and when approached about taking part in this game, it seems there was no hesitation, even though it is the day after their home clash with Bray Wanderers.

"As part of our 125th anniversary season, we look forward to what will be a fantastic spectacle and a great social event," said Bohemians president Matt Devaney.

Rossin Rovers' PRO Andy McGuinniety said: "Some of Ireland's household names and hot young prospects play for them, so we can't wait for the challenge. It will be a big day in the club's history."

The game kicks off at 2pm and will be played at Rossin Rovers' ground, which is half-way between Slane and Drogheda on the banks of the Mattock river. It's a very scenic venue, in the shadow of Newgrange, and a big crowd is expected.

Before the game, the host club's under 16s will get the day's football going, and afterwards the nearby Black & White Thatched Inn will host a social event. Admission to the match and post-match event is free.

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