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Attendances continue to rise after Foley's first season

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Munster head coach Anthony Foley

Munster head coach Anthony Foley

SPORTSFILE

Munster head coach Anthony Foley

Anthony Foley's first season in charge of Munster has seen an increase in the number of supporters for first half of the campaign with a jump of 6.5pc being reported.

And Munster chiefs are hopeful that will increase when the side return to Cork next month for the opening of the revamped Irish Independent Park.

The former Musgrave Park will host four Pro12 ties, starting on February 14 when Cardiff Blues visit.

And two weeks later Munster will be looking for revenge when they host Glasgow Warriors, with Treviso and Dragons there in April and May.

There has been an increase of just over 6,500 supporters attending the eight home games this season compared to last year.

A total of 107,200 fans have attended games - not including season-ticket holders who have not gone to matches - so far.

This is up 6,500 for the same number of games last year, with the full houses for the Champions Cup clash against Clermont Auvergne and the Pro12 tie with Leinster boosting the overall figure.

An average of 13,375 have attended Munster games this season and chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald said they hope to continue the trend for the remainder of the season.

"Attendances at all sporting events have been challenged by the economic environment so we are grateful to people who have supported the side.

"The Pro12 game against Leinster was the first time in three seasons in which a league game has been sold out in advance of the match," said Fitzgerald.

The return of games to Cork is also expected to boost attendances for the second half of the campaign. Irish Independent Park will stage its first major game when the Irish Wolfhounds take on England Saxons on January 30.

"Cork is a vital element of Munster Rugby's success and we are happy that Irish Independent Park will be central to rugby development in the region," added Fitzgerald.

Munster travel to Parma this weekend to take on Zebre, while a good result in London next weekend against Saracens in the Champions Cup should see Thomond Park packed on Sunday, January 25, when Foley's men will bid to secure a quarter-final place when they entertain Sale Sharks.

Irish Independent