It seems that it will be all roads leading to Croke Park on Sunday next for the All-Ireland semi-final between Donegal and Dublin.
For the first time this year, Croke Park will be sold out. The Donegal GAA office in Ballybofey has been under extreme pressure this week as the initial allocation for the game of 11,000 was exhausted.
Donegal county secretary Aodh Mairtin O Fearaigh said that they were lucky to get a further allocation which has just about satisfied the very high demand in the county.
“We had to request an additional allocation and we were lucky in that a large number of tickets that had been reserved online were not taken up and they were taken off the system and re-allocated to Donegal and Dublin. That took the pressure off us.
“At the moment we have distributed 12,000 tickets thorugh clubs in Donegal and many others have been booked at SuperValu, Centra and through Ticketmaster.
“At a very conservative estimate there will be 20,000 Donegal supporters in Croke Park for the game,” said the secretary.
The Croke Park authorities are confident that the game will be the first sell-out of 2011.
“We are heading in the direction of a sell-out already, nine days out from the semi-final,” confirmed GAA communications manager Alan Milton. Depending on the extent of Dublin county board’s ticket request, you may even find there are no more tickets available after this weekend.
“The Donegal county board has requested 15,000 tickets, 22,000 had been sold via the GAA’s ticket office, www.gaa.ie and other outlets by last Tuesday and 10,000 corporate seats are also set to be snapped up.
“The Tyrone win has captured the imagination of Dublin supporters,” Milton confirmed. “Also the semi-final is a big day for neutrals because they cannot buy tickets for the final.”
Presuming the 80,000 barrier is breached, it will signify a major upsurge on the 52,661 crowd for Dublin’s quarter-final win over Tyrone. The highest attendance of the season was 58,723 for a Leinster SFC semi-final double-header in June, when Dublin and Kildare were the headline act.
The emergence of online booking for big GAA matches, though, looks like causing another headache for the GAA. With supporters able to buy good quality tickets online weeks in advance of the semi-final, many diehard supporters who are club members will receive tickets that are of inferior quality. The Donegal GAA secretary Aodh Mairtin O Fearraigh feels it is an issue that the GAA are going to have to address in the very near future.
“There will be an issue with club membership down the line and if supporters can buy tickets online it will be difficult to entice people to pay club membership.
“It is something we will have to make an issue of,” said O Fearaigh, who revealed that the Donegal Central Council delegate will be raising it at the next meeting
“Wew would be better off as an Association if all tickets go through the county board,” said Aodh Mairtin.
Meanwhile, Donegal’s preparations for the big game with Dublin continue.
Michael Hegarty remains the only worry ahead of the game but the Kilcar man is hopeful that he can take his place for his 50th championship appearance for Donegal.