Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The days of being able to rock up to a GAA game, even local club games, and pay to get in are a thing of the past, much to Phil Fanning and plenty of more GAA people’s disgust. Photo: Inpho.

One would have to ask just what goes on when the GAA’s Competition Controls Committee meets to fix dates and venues for the final stages of the All-Ireland Championships.
Just a few weeks ago we had two All-Ireland Football Qualifiers in Croke Park in front of just 16,000 people and the stadium was again three quarters empty for the Leinster hurling final between Kilkenny and Galway.
Who, in their right minds would have brought Clare and Roscommon across the Shannon to Croke Park for a football game with Pearse Stadium, Galway on each county’s doorstep. Mayo and Kildare could easily have been accommodated in O’Connor Park, Tullamoe with a great atmosphere in both grounds in sharp contrast to the hollow echoes of a near empty Croke Park.

The fixing of two of the most attractive hurling games of the year, the quarter-finals for a Saturday afternoon in Thurles defied all logic. The attendance of just over 36,000 did not at all reflect the interest in those games nationwide. Common sense would dictate that the Wexford/Clare tie could have been played in Thurles on Saturday at 4p.m. with the Cork/ Galway game in Limerick on Sunday afternoon at 2 pm. thus allowing time to play the Tailteann Cup semi-finals on television with a later starting time in Croke Park. I have no doubt but that each of the hurling games would have drawn at least 25,000 each.
This coming weekend we have four football games in Croke Park with one Munster team, Cork, playing on Saturday, and the other Kerry, playing on Sunday. We have one Ulster team, Derry, playing on Saturday and the other, Armagh, playing on Sunday. Both would pack Croke Park on a Sunday fixture. In fairness to Cork, having made it this far, they should not be required to travel to play Dublin for a 6 pm. game on Saturday. The football support for Cork is drawn mainly from the west of the county right down to the Beara peninsula and just imagine the journey home those supporters would face leaving Dublin between 8.30 and 9pm.
The Kerry /Mayo game could be played in Limerick in the interest of both counties as was the case some years ago especially in this time of spiralling petrol costs and no hotels available in Dublin.
And then there is the exorbitant prices being charged for tickets online and the situation where no tickets were available in midweek for the hurling games in Thurles and on the day of the game just 36,000 turned up at the 45,000 capacity stadium. Explain that.

County boards are taking their lead from the CCCC in that they are opting for online ticket sales as opposed to taking money at gates for club games. This coming weekend we have six League finals in Waterford and clubs have been notified that no money will be taken at the gates and only tickets purchased on line through the link will be honoured.
Who is notifying the unattached supporter who may want to go and see the Mount Sion/Ballygunner game, for example, on Friday evening, the man who hears the game is on and decides after his tea that it might be a good way to spend an idle evening. Will he be told to go home on arriving in Walsh Park with his fiver.
The GAA is losing its way at all levels and is getting out of touch with the rank and file members who have followed the games through thick and thin in the interests of lucrative television coverage. Someone has to ring the alarm bells.

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