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Rugby 'not affecting GAA crowds'

By Colm Keys

The GAA have contested claims that crowds at Allianz league matches are being affected by clashes with Six Nations rugby matches.

With the Ireland/France match refixed for Sunday, March 4, it will be a direct clash with 10 NFL games.

But Fergal McGill, head of games administration, has disputed the contention that there is a 'considerable hit' on attendances that go head-to-head with rugby.

"The evidence so far this season is that attendances are better than expected," said McGill.

"Ireland were to play France last Saturday night yet there were around 10,000 in McHale Park in Castlebar for Mayo and Dublin and another 6,000 in Tralee for Kerry and Armagh.

"Even on the day of the Ireland v Wales game, we felt our attendances stood up well.

"A decline in attendances at games which have gone head-to-head with the two rugby internationals so far has not been noticeable to us."

McGill accepted that attendances can suffer when they go up against some Leinster and Munster fixtures if they are quarter-finals, semi-finals or finals, while an Ireland v England match can also see a decline.

Ireland play England on St Patrick's Day at Twickenham, the same day as the club finals at Croke Park.

McGill says the example of the Kerry/Galway NFL final in 2006, which went ahead in Limerick's Gaelic Grounds on the same evening as Munster played Leinster in the European Cup semi-final is "unfair."

"Kerry/Galway games in the past never generated big numbers. When they met in 1982 the crowd wasn't much bigger," he said.

McGill agreed that major soccer tournaments can have an impact on GAA attendances, even when the start times are staggered.

Belfast Telegraph


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