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Time to bring the games to the people, rather than silent Croke Park

By Declan Bogue

Published 03/08/2016

Running on empty: Donegal and Cork battle it out at a sparcely populated Croke Park
Running on empty: Donegal and Cork battle it out at a sparcely populated Croke Park

At half-time of the Mayo-Westmeath match on Saturday, the attendance flashed up; 27,615.

All paying decent money to see their day's football. And there were two good games, with Donegal getting their groove back on to overcome the temporary Cork resistance, and Westmeath putting it up to Mayo for a good portion of the afternoon.

The only thing was, it didn't feel like a big day. The atmosphere was muted, quiet and you could hear the players calling to each other on the pitch.

While the GAA top brass only last week admitted that attendances are dropping, it might be an idea to become more imaginative in where they stage the games.

Two games attended by 14,000 each would have represented a good day for the bean-counters. In fact, the attendance this year was actually up on the corresponding day last year when Sligo, Tyrone, Donegal and Galway were in the big house.

The suggestion from this corner would be that the defeated provincial finalists would get home advantage for their fourth-round game. It would be a chance for the support of the defeated county to row in behind their side without an expensive trip to Dublin, while the side that comes through the backdoor get a roadtrip and a chance to test out their momentum.

Either way, the sight of sparsely populated stands does nothing for the Association and only underlines the old belief that when it comes to the All-Ireland race, things only get serious from August on.

Meanwhile, Cavan have parted company with manager Terry Hyland.

The Lacken clubman has been in charge of the Breffni men since 2011, when he managed alongside Val Andrews, and assumed sole charge the following season after a split in the county panel.

Prior to that, Hyland laid the foundations for successive Cavan under-21 teams who took Ulster titles at that level.

The county board will now begin looking for Hyland's successor, with the post sure to attract big names.

Belfast Telegraph

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