Quarter-finals set to buck trend and attract huge crowds
BOTH All-Ireland quarter-final double-headers are on course to break an attendance barrier of 60,000, with over 70,000 expected at the Sunday games.
After a weekend where a paltry crowd – reported by Off The Ball yesterday as 16,425 - turned up at Croke Park for the round two qualifiers involving Roscommon, Clare, Kildare and Mayo, fresh questions were raised over the use of Croke Park.
The stadium has been notably empty for big Leinster championship games in both football and hurling over recent years, a trend that worryingly carried into last weekend.
But the novelty effect for a handful of the counties as well as the make-up of the draw that put Galway, Armagh, Derry and Clare all on one side, meaning one of them will reach the All-Ireland final, has driven interest through the roof.
After going on sale at 10am yesterday, more than 30,000 tickets for both the Saturday and Sunday ties had been sold by 5pm.
GAA officials are expecting in excess of 60,000 for the Dublin-Cork and Derry-Clare games on the Saturday, and more than 70,000 for the Sunday games involving Kerry, Mayo, Armagh and Galway.
Neutral venues had been mooted but weren't seriously considered. The last knockout football quarter-finals to be held outside Croke Park were three of the first four back in 2001, when Clones, Castlebar and Thurles were used.
While there's no obligation on the GAA's part to hold games in Croke Park based on the sale of 10-year and premium tickets, those factors do come into consideration.
The Irish News understands that Cork had sought to bring Dublin to Páirc Ui Chaoimh for their quarter-final meeting but the Dubs weren't agreeable to the idea.
It's believed a home-and-away arrangement that would see the next game in Croke Park and any future ties alternate between the venues was offered but Dublin also turned that down.
The crowd for the double-header with Derry and Clare looks set now to exceed the capacity of Páirc Ui Chaoimh, with all eight sides looking forward to playing in front of bumper crowds that have rarely been seen at the last eight stage in recent years.