The Ulster Council’s Head of Public Affairs Ryan Feeney has played down the notion that this summer’s huge sporting itinerary will impact adversely on the Ulster senior football championship.
With the competition due to get under way on Sunday week, Feeney believes that the Council is well placed to meet the challenge posed by a television menu that will embrace the Olympics, Euro 2012 and the Irish Open Golf Championship at Royal Portrush.
The Council is already in the throes of a robust marketing campaign aimed at maximising the appeal of the championship and Feeney says indications are that this will pay handsome dividends.
Each county will distribute 5,000 free tickets for under-16s via their schools’ coaches to enable them to attend games while family ticket deals are also on offer.
“There is tremendous enthusiasm for our reduced ticket price package and we feel that we have got this right in terms of offering value for money for our followers,” says Feeney.
“Most counties are holding an Open Night tonight at the direction of Central Council when fans will be able to meet the players and this will prove an ideal opportunity for them to purchase tickets. Our aim is to try and sustain the championship attendances of the past two years.
“There was a feeling that the Ulster Championship would suffer last year because of the recession but this did not turn out to be the case.”
The GAA’s Communications Manager Alan Milton has already denied that the Open Nights are a knee-jerk reaction to the competition from other sports.
“Nobody in Croke Park takes the huge attendances and interest in our games for granted, especially in this tough economic time, so we decided to organise these evenings,” points out Milton.
“There has been a lot of comment about the European Championships and the Olympics, but this is not a knee jerk reaction to those events. We are very confident in our games.
“Most teams, unless they reach the All-Ireland finals, never have nights like this and never get the chance to interact with the younger fans in particular.”
Feeney meanwhile is confident that the television menu of sport will not serve to detract from interest in the championship.
“The fact of the matter is that people will still be able to watch the Olympics, the golf and the soccer and also go to championship matches.
“The only occasion on which there is likely to be anything approaching a clash is on June 10 when Tyrone meet Armagh. That match is at 4pm and I understand the Republic of Ireland are in action in the European Championships that night at 7pm.
“People will still be able to get to a television set somewhere to see the game, of that I am certain.”