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Hurling becomes highest-grossing Gaelic event

By Declan Bogue

The GAA accounts for 2013, published yesterday, reveal that for the first time ever, the All-Ireland hurling series grossed more than the income from the football.

In overall figures, there was a 10% increase in attendance of All-Ireland senior football games, the average rising from 2012's figure of 14,606, to 15,996 in 2013. The accounts are checked by Mazars Chartered Accountants and Registered Auditors of Harcourt Centre, Dublin.

The total revenue year on year also went up, from the figure of €52.8 million (£43.8m) in 2012 to €54.6 million (£45.3m) last year, a growth rate of 3%. The figures quoted come from two principle sources of gate receipts and commercial revenues.

It was reported that the Allianz football league enjoyed greater attendances than before, while the hurling league figures dipped. There was also concern that the International Rules series fared well below expectations.

Commercial and Stadium Director, Peter McKenna, also revealed that Croke Park is now debt-free after all outstanding loans were settled during 2013.

He also spoke of his optimism for the year ahead. An American football game between UFC Knights and Penn State is to be staged, along with concerts featuring pop act One Direction and the four Garth Brooks concerts. Conservative estimates put the hire of Croke Park at around €750,000 (£622,000) for each concert.

However, there will be legitimate concerns about the state of the Croke Park pitch and how it is left after four concerts, staged a week before the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Back in 2009, U2 played the venue and ground staff re-laid the pitch. Such a course of action may not be necessary this time, explains McKenna.

"We looked at this long and hard because last week the demand for tickets was there. It was could we host it or not. The stage is not nearly as dramatic as some of the stages like U2," he said.

"It's actually back on Hill 16 so it's not that far in on the pitch. The ramps are not as aggressive as some of the others that we've had. Significantly the delay towers, the sound towers are going to be from the roof down rather than from the ground up so that means we've got the whole back of the pitch."

Although there was no concerts at Croke Park in 2013 and they still managed to meet all their projected targets, it is clear that 2014 should be a windfall year. McKenna could not hide his delight with that prospect when talking about the emergence of four concerts featuring Brooks.

He also explained that the Association intends to work with the local community during the concerts in late July.

"We didn't know this would be in the pipeline. This is new. This was a Christmas present, that's the truth of it," he commented.

"We shouldn't underplay the impact it's going to have on the local community. We're very conscious that four concerts back to back is going to be very disruptive."

He added, "We're meeting with the local community and we want a meaningful legacy statement made from these concerts. So when the artist goes home and everyone else packs up and leaves, something meaningful is left in the area."

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