- FRANK ROCHE – 25 JUNE 2013 02:30 PM
LEINSTER GAA chief Martin Skelly is confident that next Saturday’s Dublin/Kilkenny rematch can buck the traditional downward trend of replay attendances and attract an even bigger crowd to Portlaoise.
Provincial chairman Skelly reckons that Dublin’s renaissance of form against the All-Ireland champions will encourage many more ‘stay-away’ Sky Blues to head down the M7 motorway next weekend.
And the Leinster Council has offered a further sweetener by reducing admission prices, with stand tickets now priced €20 (down from €25) and terrace prices set at €10 (down from €15) while U-16s will have free admission to the terraces.
A crowd of 9,674 paid through the O’Moore Park turnstiles last Sunday – a relatively healthy figure, given the pessimistic pre-match air surrounding Dublin’s chances, but almost 3,000 down on the 12,446 that turned up for last year’s corresponding Leinster semi-final at the same venue.
Now, looking ahead to next Saturday’s 7.0 replay, Skelly declared: “This will be their fourth game in the Leinster championship – anyone who has any interest in Dublin hurling will surely get behind their team and start to believe that this is starting to happen. I think we’ll have a bigger crowd next Saturday night than last Sunday.
“Kilkenny people will surely travel, and I have no doubt that an even larger contingent of Dublin people will get behind their team.”
Intriguingly, even though Dublin almost created one of the biggest shocks in recent hurling history on Sunday, Skelly labelled the curtain-raiser result at Portlaoise as an even bigger landmark.
“The hurling story of the weekend had to be the success of the Laois minors (against Wexford) in reaching their first Leinster minor final since 1991,” he argued.
“This minor success has been built on the great work that is being done at underage level in the county over the last four or five years. It has been a Leinster coaching and games initiative, with a huge effort from the hurling fraternity in Laois, and it’s now beginning to bear fruit.”