Will the last person to leave Northern Ireland on Saturday, April 28, please switch off the lights?
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A 40,000-strong exodus from Ulster is on the cards with a red and white army heading for the Heineken Cup semi-final clash with Edinburgh at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
When Ulster won European club rugby’s premier tournament by beating Colomiers 21-6 in 1999, the final was played at the old Lansdowne Road which was packed to its 49,000 capacity. The ‘house full’ signs at the magnificent new stadium go up when there are 50,000 inside.
Clearly that is going to be the case on April 28 — and the vast majority are coming from Ulster.
Ticketmaster has been handling a flood of online requests for tickets. Almost 12,000 were sold in less than two and a half hours when they went on sale at noon yesterday.
That does not affect Ulster‘s 4,000 season ticket-holders, for whom 20,000 tickets are ring-fenced. They are entitled to eight tickets each up until midnight tonight.
Sales increased amid reports on Twitter that Edinburgh had sold a thousand tickets by yesterday morning.
By 2pm, only two hours after tickets went on general sale, less than half of the seating blocks still had seats available.
Fiona Hampton, Ulster Rugby’s commercial manager, said: “The people buying through the general sale seem to be mainly Ulster supporters so with that and the 20,000 tickets ring-fenced for our season ticket-holders we would imagine that we will have the majority of the stadium.
“I think the whole stadium will be white; that certainly is our aim. I very much think that the Ulster support will very much outweigh the Edinburgh support.
“I do think there are enough tickets for everybody to be accommodated. That’s why we have gone for several different ways of selling them — via Ticketmaster, via general on-sales and then over the counter (today) for anybody who cannot access Ticketmaster on-line.”
If there are any tickets left after that, they will go on sale on Friday morning. The signs, though, are that it will already be sold out by that stage.
Mark Thompson, an Ulster fan from Belfast, said: “I bought two tickets as soon as I could because I knew that they would go in no time. When I looked on Ticketmaster you could see the seats disappearing.
“Unfortunately I didn't make it to Thomond Park but I wasn't about to pass up on a semi-final.”