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A combination of factors see GAA fans go missing in their thousands

Inside Track with John McIntyre

WHERE have the GAA crowds gone? A triple header at Croke Park on Sunday which included two National Camogie League finals, together with the Leinster senior football quarter-final between Dublin and Meath, only attracted an attendance of 21,445.

Worse again, three other provincial football ties – all at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise –  on the same weekend barely mustered a decent crowd between them. We all know Dublin’s continued dominance of the Leinster championship is contributing to the apathy of fans, but falling numbers are becoming a widespread problem.

Last week, Waterford GAA made a plea to supporters to get behind the team for their upcoming Munster hurling championship clash with Cork at a revamped Walsh Cup. We hear the locals are “sick to death” of Davy Fitzgerald’s sweeper tactics, but that can’t entirely explain the slow pick-up in ticket sales.

Remember, this is a venue with a capacity of only 14,000 and, traditionally, Waterford fans have been some of the most loyal around, but they are switching off. The team’s ongoing struggles are no doubt a problem, but like all other GAA supporters, they haven’t been immune to the terrible Spring weather, the cost of living, and growing disenchantment with the split season.

Everything is so condensed and there is so much happening every weekend that supporters are increasingly content to stay at home and watch the action from several games on TV. Furthermore, these ‘big matches’ are on too early in the year. It’s barely mid-April and already Leitrim, Carlow, Fermanagh, Limerick, Antrim, Monaghan, Wicklow, Westmeath, Carlow, Longford, Tipperary, Wexford, and Laois footballers are out of the provincial championships.

In the old days, counties would only now be cranking up their preparations for the championship. This weekend there is another glut of fixtures. Will there even be 1,500 in Pearse Stadium on Sunday to see Galway hurlers take on Carlow, when that blockbuster Munster collision between Clare and Limerick (live on RTE) is taking place at the same time 45 miles down the road in Ennis?

Pictured: Galway’s Ailish O’Reilly on the attack against Karen Blair of Tipperary during Sunday’s Division 1A Camogie League Final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne.

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