All Ireland Football Championship: Ulster sides’ successes adding to Croke Park coffers
The GAA is set to benefit from an estimated €3.5m boost from the All Ireland football semi-finals.
With the attendance for next Sunday’s Down v Kildare showdown expected to top 50,000, this will mean that upwards on 140,000 will have witnessed the penultimate contests in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup.
And Croke Park officials make no secret of their satisfaction at seeing two Ulster sides involved in the closing stages of both the Minor and Senior competitions.
Last Sunday a huge contingent of Tyrone fans travelled to Headquarters to cheer their Minor side to victory over Mayo, while tickets for the Down v Kildare senior semi-final are “like gold dust” according to Down secretary Sean Og McAteer.
“Ulster fans have a reputation for putting their hands in their pockets and getting behind their teams. I think we will see further strong evidence of this on Sunday,” said a Croke Park spokesman.
In a championship season to date which has seen attendances fall, the GAA hierarchy is understandably anxious that the football series should finish on a high note given that the hurling championship has been boringly predictable with Kilkenny again red-hot favourites to retain the Liam McCarthy Cup for the fifth successive year.
But with the GAA now denied the lucrative cash injections from the FAI and IRFU for the use of Croke Park since these bodies have set up their new home in the impressive Aviva Stadium, fresh methods of generating funds are being investigated.
The huge income which the GAA has garnered over the course of the past year or so prior to the opening of the Aviva Stadium has allowed it to plough some €30m into embellishing coaching structures and initiatives in every county but this income is now set to dry up substantially.
However, the GAA could be poised to enjoy a huge financial bonanza when the bidding for the next three years of television and radio broadcasting rights begins immediately the current All Ireland series ends.
With more broadcasting outlets now competing for such rights, the GAA will find its financial hand strengthened. TV3 made history when it managed to secure 30 live games over the three-year period that commenced in 2008 while Newstalk, the radio station now in its ninth year of broadcasting, is to make its most concerted bid yet to secure rights to football and hurling championship matches.
But with GAA Director General Paraic Duffy having already indicated that fewer matches might be made available for live coverage to ensure that attendances do not drop further broadcasters could conceivably find that they will be paying more for less.