The FAI’s commercial and marketing minds didn’t need to come together to sell out next month’s World Cup qualifier. Instead, the clash of Stephen Kenny’s side and a star-studded Portuguese team led by main attraction Cristiano Ronaldo was always going to sell itself.
Within minutes of the 10am launch of general sale tickets, supporters were reporting the disappointment of missing out. When a handful subsequently popped up on third-party websites at inflated prices, anger was a prevailing emotion.
In recent years, the FAI have sometimes struggled to give away tickets for senior games, so this is a refreshing contrast given that income from the men’s side is the main driver of finances for the Association.
The swift sale should allow minds to switch to another Aviva Stadium date 17 days later. On Sunday, November 28, Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic meet in the first all-Dublin FAI Cup final since 2000 and the first-ever clash in the decider between the teams. Coming out of Covid, the express aim of the authorities at Abbotstown should be to aim high and attract the biggest crowd to the showpiece since the old Lansdowne was renovated.
An attendance of 36,101 witnessed the 2010 final between Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers, the largest turn-out since 39,128 watched the Hoops defeat Waterford at Dalymount Park in 1968. The final has enjoyed a new lease of life since finding its new home and the 2010s’ crowds were the best since the 1960s. Both the 2018 (Dundalk v Cork City) and 2019 (Dundalk v Shamrock Rovers) showdowns scaled the 30,000 barrier.
Discounted tickets have helped, and the double-header with the women’s decider – which is in Tallaght on November 21 this year – will have added some numbers to the gate.
It’s optimistic to expect the match to be a massive revenue generator. Rather, it should be seized upon as a promotional opportunity for the game here. With Vera Pauw’s side playing home qualifiers (November 25 and 30) either side of it, the FAI should be looking to maximise the potential of that window.
Abbotstown efforts to fill the stadium for their big day have always paled in comparison with the admirable work of Ladies GAA to grow their football final to a peak of 56,114 in 2019.
Dublin’s growth was a contributory factor with subsidised tickets and transport for teams in the area putting bums on seats. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s an avenue that should be explored for the Bohs-Pat’s encounter.
The demand for Bohs’ European games in the Aviva Stadium – with the available 8,000 tickets going within 15 minutes – illustrates they can aim high in terms of what they can manage after working hard on their brand and their community standing in recent years, while this can be a catalyst for the Saints’ attempts to do the same.
But both clubs need a helping hand from the authorities to spread this match beyond their catchment areas.
A frustration of certain FAI staff in recent years has been a reluctance to put tickets on sale before the finalists are known, and time is of the essence. Sky switched Chelsea v Manchester United to that afternoon and, in this country, there will always be obstacles and excuses when it comes to the LOI.
But with a new younger profile of the league linked in with the future of the national side, there has to be a way of engaging with those Ireland fans who may want to see the next Jamie McGrath or Chiedozie Ogbene, both of whom featured in FAI Cup finals.
Bohs have U-21 squad members Dawson Devoy, Ross Tierney and Andy Lyons in their ranks, and the country’s top scorer Georgie Kelly. St Pat’s have rising star Darragh Burns, among others.
All of those listed, and more, are under the age of 25. There’s a deep reservoir of stories in the older age brackets, too, and it would be a failure of imagination to let it become just another final. The FAI have a month from tomorrow to make it work.