GAA Football

Annual Ulster Championship attendance figures set to drop

Tyrone's clash with Donegal this year attracted a crowd of 22,609 compared to last year's provincial final crowd of 33,433. Picture by Philip Walsh

THE average attendance at games in this year’s Ulster Championship will show a drop from last year, even if the provincial final happens to go to a replay.

Currently the overall figure stands at 93,009 fans that have passed through the turnstiles across the seven games in this year’s provincial Championship.

That compares to 100,489 by this stage last year – a figure that discounts the fact that last year’s two semi-finals both went to replays.

Overall last year the figure rose to 171,319, with the final attracting a sell-out crowd and the semi-final replay ties between Cavan and Tyrone, and Donegal and Monaghan, both attracting bigger crowds than the drawn game.

The average attendance last year was 17,132, which was a slight decrease on the year previous, but even assuming that the final will be a sell-out in Clones, that figure will drop beneath 15,900 this year.

Only two games so far this summer have broken the 15,000 barrier; namely Down’s derby win over Armagh at Páirc Esler and the semi-final clash of Donegal and Tyrone in Clones.

While semi-final attendances are traditionally smaller than for a final, the difference between the attendances at this year’s Donegal v Tyrone game (22,609) compared to last year’s (33,433) is notable given the recent history between the two counties.

The figure for this year’s clash was still a larger crowd than attended any of the semi-final games last year, including the replays.

Attendances in Ulster had risen annually since 2011 and while a decrease this year was inevitable, the scale of it will be of concern, particularly in the circumstances.

While the opening rounds of the Championship attracted criticism, the draw threw up four consecutive local derbies that would traditionally have whet the appetite of supporters.

Derry’s meeting with Tyrone attracted almost 2,000 fewer supporters to Celtic Park than attended their meeting last year, while Cavan’s Kingspan Breffni clash with Monaghan fell over 2,000 short of the Breffni side’s home tie with Armagh last year.

Compared to Donegal’s win over Fermanagh last year, there were almost 6,000 fewer in Ballybofey to see the hosts beat Antrim.

The preliminary round game between Monaghan and Fermanagh attracted just 7,743, compared to the 9,124 that were in Brewster Park last year for Fermanagh v Antrim.

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