On Sunday, the GAA confirmed that Semple Stadium in Thurles would host next Saturday’s All-Ireland hurling semi-final replay between Waterford and Kilkenny. Is this the right venue for the eagerly awaited clash?
Due to Conor Fogarty’s late equalising point, Kilkenny and Waterford are forced to do it all over again this weekend. In the immediate aftermath of last Sunday’s epic clash, the attention quickly turned to the logistics surrounding the replay clash.
Thurles or Croke Park? Saturday or Sunday? These were the questions being asked. It was rumoured that the GAA were considering a triple-header in Croke Park next Sunday with the senior and minor meetings of Galway and Tipperary played along with the replayed clash between the Déise and the Cats.
However, in truth, this suggestion was never going to work in terms of ticket demand and allocation. With a figure in the region of 60,000 expected to attend next Sunday’s clash in Croke Park, there simply would not have been enough tickets to meet the demand.
The GAA have turned to Semple Stadium on Saturday evening for the eagerly-awaited clash. Is this the correct call? This writer certainly believes so.
The attendance at last Sunday’s thriller was very disappointing. A mere 34,432 people witnessed the fantastic spectacle. Although the atmosphere wasn’t bad, it could have been a lot better.
The small crowd was largely down to the €40 ticket fee for last Sunday’s contest. With the added cost of travel and the fact that Kilkenny were favourites to claim victory, many fans decided against travelling.
After Waterford’s masterful performance, many more will want to see the replay. With a €10 reduction in stand ticket prices, this Saturday evening in Thurles presents the GAA with a chance of achieving their first hurling sell-out this year.
With less of a distance to travel for both sets of supporters, Semple Stadium is the ideal venue for the two teams.
A stadium with a reduced capacity will certainly add to the atmosphere. Semple Stadium will be a cauldron on Saturday evening as both sides will look to claim a place in the All-Ireland final showdown on the first Sunday in September.
It is expected that Thurles will be a sell-out. With this in mind, the GAA have certainly made the correct call in terms of appointing Semple Stadium in Thurles to host this replay contest.
The GAA have been in the past, including this year, criticised heavily for some of their choices in terms of venues for championship encounters. However, this is certainly the correct call and the GAA should be praised for making such a decision.
It has been confirmed that the All-Ireland camogie semi-finals between Cork and Wexford and Galway and Kilkenny will also take place in Thurles on Saturday, in what will be a triple-header.
A packed Semple Stadium and a contest like last Sunday’s should present a fantastic spectacle. Roll on Saturday evening.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena