unique occasion

'Festival of football,' but ladies football's big day may be impacted - mixed views ahead of All-Ireland weekend

Will Dublin and Kerry’s replay on Saturday evening take away from – or add to – the All-Ireland ladies football finals on Sunday? Opinion is divided.

WITH THE TWO biggest days in the Gaelic football year both set for this weekend, we’re in for a unique 24 hours or so at Croke Park.

tg4-all-ireland-ladies-football-championship-finals-2019-captains-day Captains from each of the All-Ireland finalists at Croke Park today. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

The All-Ireland ladies football finals day had always been pencilled in for Sunday, 15 September, but after Jim Gavin’s Dublin and Peter Keane’s Kerry finished level on 1-16 a-piece in their original All-Ireland showdown, that replay takes place on Saturday evening.

And since the final whistle sounded at HQ on Sunday, 1 September, there’s been plenty of questioning whether the men’s replay will take away from the ladies’ decider day.

Opinions have been split, with some concerns around Sunday’s attendance, media coverage in the build-up and overall interest. But others see the entire weekend as a festival of football, as Dublin look to defend both the Sam Maguire and Brendan Martin cups.

At today’s ladies football captain’s day, the feeling on it all was largely positive with whispers that ticket sales are going pretty well for the big day. 

Last year, 50,141 fans turned out and broke another attendance record, and the LGFA are hopeful for more of the same in 2019.

Dublin star forward Niamh McEvoy is extremely upbeat about the entire weekend.

“It’s like a festival of football, it’s amazing,” she told The42. “I’m hoping that everyone who goes to the men’s final has an amazing day and they’re in the mood for another one. 

Equally, there’s people who are going to be disappointed after not getting tickets for the Saturday so that will encourage those people to come out to another All-Ireland final the following day. I don’t think it’s going to take away from it at all. 

“Ourselves and the men being there, there’s a lot of talk going on at the minute about if we were to be successful… it’s not something we’re talking about in the group. I think it’s going to be an amazing weekend. I think it’s great that the ladies day is the following day. Hopefully we can get people out.

“Rollover,” she laughs.

Dublin, who are chasing three in-a-row, face Galway in the senior decider in a repeat of the last times the side met in the final in 2004.

niamh-mcevoy-celebrates Niamh McEvoy after winning in 2017. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

In Sunday’s early throw-in it’s Louth and Fermanagh locking horns with junior glory on the line, while 2017 intermediate champions Tipperary and 2018 finalists Meath battle it out for the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup.

And Royal selector Paul Garrigan echoed McEvoy’s words.

“Ah, I think it just adds to the whole weekend, like a festival of football,” he said. “With all due respect I don’t think the match being on Saturday is going to reflect who’s going to the game on Sunday.

If you’re going to the game on Saturday, you’ll be at both. The crowd that was here last year, if the LGFA can reflect that it won’t really have any effect.”

There was a bit more uncertainty in the Tipperary camp, however.

2017 All-Ireland-winning manager Shane Ronayne, who also steered Cork club outfit Mourneabbey to national glory in December, says it’s going to be a memorable weekend, but fears for the media coverage and publicity.

“I think it’s going to a great weekend of football up here,” Ronayne began. “If you’re a neutral you can enjoy four games of football, if you manage to get a ticket for the game on Saturday night.

Look, it definitely is going to impact on the publicity for the ladies game. We call a spade a spade there, it’s disappointing for the ladies game considering how high profile it’s become.

“But in previous years I think it would have been impacted more. The way things have gone with the 20×20 campaign, with the huge increase in the media coverage – Sky Sports showing deferred coverage of it – it’s going to be able to stand on its own two feet.

“It will impact it a small bit but in previous years, I think it would have impacted it a lot more. It happened there a couple of years ago there was a final moved [in 2012], I think the final was moved for a hurling replay and that definitely impacted on the ladies game.”

He added: “Look, Dublin in both finals should add to a big crowd on Sunday. Especially if the result goes the Dubs’ way on Saturday night, there’ll definitely be an overflow of people going in on Sunday.

shane-ronayne Tipperary manager Shane Ronayne. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“If there’s a good game on Saturday night, people will tune in on Sunday for more good football. I think they’re going to see three exciting games.”

His captain, Samantha Lambert, was of the same mindset, saying that the men’s replay the night before does take from the biggest day in the ladies football calendar rather than add to it all.

“I think it probably takes away a little bit from the ladies,” the Ardfinnan defender explained.

“But look, there’s been a lot of great work on social media promoting the ladies football on Sunday, but I do think it may take away a small bit. Look, I don’t mind it too much because it will be two hours for me to take my mind off my own game. I’m kind of delighted there’ll be a bit of entertainment going on to keep me occupied.

It will take a small bit from it I think but as long as the promotion of the game keeps going itself, I think we’ll be fine.

And Fermanagh captain Joanne Doonan, who recently signed an AFLW deal with Carlton Blues, added, when asked whether the men’s replay would impact the ladies finals:

“I suppose a wee bit media-wise, the following week might be all talk about the men’s game as opposed to us. Ach no, it makes for a good weekend of football. You just want to embrace it. It shouldn’t make that much of a difference. Well, hopefully not.”

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