Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Joe Kernan: Flawed Croke Park decision made it a lost weekend for GAA

The GAA lost a lot of money last weekend if we are to believe all we hear about what is the break-even attendance figure for matches at Croke Park.

It has been emphasised more than once of late that it is not really viable to make Croke Park available for a game or games that will attract less than a crowd of in the region of 30,000-35,000.

Yet what happened last Saturday? A paltry 8,000-odd fans attended the Division 3 and Division 4 National Football League Finals.

The notion that playing the games as a double bill at Headquarters would prove an attractive proposition backfired and naturally the meagre attendance was lost in the vast bowl of the stadium. It would have been much better to have staged the Louth v Westmeath Division 3 final at Navan and the Longford v Roscommon Division Four match at somewhere like Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan or in Carrick-on-Shannon.

That way the two games would surely have pulled in a larger aggregate crowd and would have meant less outlay for true followers.

I am aware that players love to get the opportunity to play at Croke Park, and to be fair teams like Louth, Westmeath, Longford and Roscommon do not appear there too often.

But to add insult to injury, Louth skipper Paddy Keenan complained that darkness had descended in the closing stages of his team’s game and that he had difficulty in seeing the ball.

Croke Park has since confirmed that the floodlights can only be switched on at half-time or at the end of the first game of a double bill. Maybe there are good reasons for this but would the health and safety of players not be enough reason to switch on the floodlights rather than at a pre-ordained set time irrespective of deteriorating daylight?

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