Before we get off on the wrong foot, Croke Park is a fabulous stadium that matches up to anywhere across Europe. It’s a real jewel in the crown of the GAA. Croke Park is great but there are also a lot of stadiums across the country lying idle as a result of so many top level games being played at the Jones road venue.
This whole issue eminates from the fact that the GAA has fixed the Sligo v Tyrone and Galway v Donegal round 4 Football Qualifiers for Croke Park next Saturday Evening.
In my opinion this is beyond a joke, as there would be thirty-thousand max attending these games. Believe me, there is nothing worse than a half empty stadium drowning out any atmosphere that may be there. All of the counties are at least two hours away from Dublin, so there is a cost issue as well for any supporters that may be undecided about attending. On the other hand, imagine if these games were played in Carrick on Shannon and Castlebar respectively in packed stadiums.
If nothing else, it would at least add immensely to the local economy.
This would be a completely different debate if there weren’t any other viable stadiums, but there are. We are blessed here in Ireland to have so many exceptional GAA stadiums. The fact that if Ireland get the Rugby World Cup for 2023 that they want to use numerous GAA stadiums, only enhances this point. The GAA is all too quick in fixing games at GAA headquarters when there are other options available to them.
As much as the players love playing in Croke Park, I’m sure they would still rather be playing in packed stadiums.The reality is there have been too many games over recent years played there that would have been viable elsewhere.
Just look back at the three provincial finals which were all played in packed grounds, and it makes a huge difference even to the viewing public that are watching at home. God knows what new viewers across the world must think when they must see numerous empty seats when Qualifier games are in Croke Park.
It’s not good for the overall image of the game and for people we are trying to attract to our games. It’s a small issue, but solve this, and the world is your oyster.
One need only look across the water at the home of English Football – Wembley Stadium – and the amount of games it holds in comparison to Croke Park. In a normal season, the only games that are played there are League Cup, FA Cup and Playoff Finals, as well as any England Internationals. That mark would fall well below the amount of games that Croke Park would see in any given year, and in this case less is most definitely more.
The comparison with soccer in England is a good one, as getting to Wembley is seen as a real achievement.
This is something the GAA has definitely lost in recent years. If your team plays in Croke park it’s not necessarily seen as a success, as even normal league games are being played there now. Back in the day, getting to Croke Park was seen as a real honour as it was a real sign that your team was on the verge of success.
This is something Croke Park needs to get back to as at the moment there is a saturation of games there.
As a result of Croke Park’s activity, there are far too many stadiums lying idle during the summer months. It shouldn’t be like that, and besides, it’s not is if this is a financial thing for the GAA, as numerous concerts and even American Football games take place there to make up any cost that may be lost.
I’m calling on the GAA to start using our stadia properly, and thus as a result, the road to Croker will be all the more special.