ALL-IRELAND winning Cork footballer John Hayes believes GAA chiefs have missed an opportunity by fixing the upcoming Cork v Dublin All-Ireland football quarter-final for a Saturday evening throw-in at Croke Park.
The former Cork star and senior selector feels this crunch last-eight tie could have been held in a venue outside of Dublin – in either Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Semple Stadium in Thurles.
Instead, fans from West Cork, and in particular Beara, face an expensive trip to the capital to watch the Rebels’ attempt to shock the Dubs in their own backyard.
A Cork supporter from Eyeries faces an 800km, nine-hour minimum round drive for a 6pm throw-in. The late start time, the rising cost of fuel (with a litre of both petrol and diesel now above €2), the cost of living crisis and the rising hotel prices in Dublin city will see Cork fans hit in their pockets as they support the Rebels.
There was an opportunity for the GAA powers-that-be to fix a glamour tie like Cork v Dublin outside the capital, and also the Kerry v Mayo quarter-final – but instead all four last-eight games will be played in Croke Park this weekend.
‘This issue has been broached a few times before and it should have been flagged and foreseen in other years to give the GAA some flexibility around venues and fixtures at this stage,’ 2010 All-Ireland winner Hayes told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘You’re talking about, number one, the time issue for people from Cork heading to Dublin, especially anyone west of the city, and then there is the rising cost of driving now. Given it’s a 6pm throw-in on a Saturday evening people might love to stay the night as well, but the cost of hotels in Dublin has been well flagged and that would make it not an option for a lot of people as well.
‘Speaking to people I know in Dublin, the Dublin GAA forums were all on board for a trip to Cork or even a fixture in Thurles. Cork and Dublin in Thurles would be a great occasion, it would bring a championship buzz.’
There is frustration amongst supporters that the GAA have not availed of the chance to create proper championship occasions in venues and towns outside of Croke Park for these All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals. Last weekend, a paltry attendance was dotted around GAA HQ for the SFC qualifiers involving Mayo v Kildare and Clare v Roscommon. Taking the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals to provincial venues would also lessen the travel costs on fans – but also create a buzz and atmosphere and packed stadiums.
‘This needs to be flagged for future years as well, that we need to give ourselves some flexibility with games at this stage of the championship. They don’t all have to be in Croke Park. Anything less than 40,000 or 50,000 in Croke Park and it just doesn’t generate the same atmosphere or the same buzz,’ Hayes explained.
‘The cost of going to Dublin for people needs to be factored in as well. It is an opportunity lost. You could have put Kerry v Mayo in Limerick, put Cork v Dublin in either Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Thurles, and you would have had two great occasions.
‘I understand the need to promote games in Croke Park and everything else but it doesn’t promote the games in Croke Park when the venue is only a quarter full. If deals have to be struck with premium ticket holders or corporate ticket holders, there is always a way to do these things.’