IT’S probably stretching it a tad to suggest the crowds will start flocking back to games given the increased attendances at today’s Munster football semi-finals.
The Limerick-Cork tie at the Gaelic Grounds at 3pm has a 3,500 ceiling the same as Semple Stadium for the encounter between defending champions Tipperary and hot favourites Kerry at 7pm.
Cork received an allocation of some 1,300 tickets for their game and they were distributed to the players and clubs with Limerick taking the remainder on board.
And while 3,500 will be dwarfed in the 40,000 plus capacity ground the prospect of at least having some support in the ground should be a welcome boost for both sides.
It’s become almost the norm now that games are played out in a hushed silence save for players and management voices.
The spattering of a couple of hundred people at the concluding league games was a step in the right direction and the atmosphere in both Limerick and Thurles should certainly be up a number of levels as a result.
And it should also be welcomed by supporters, who could be excused for thinking that live tv broadcasting and streaming of games is the way forward, but it won’t be, not by a long shot.
Nothing compares to attending a game in the flesh no matter what the attractions of the tv remote control, the lap top or tablet.
And, anyway, GAA officials badly need to hear the sound of turnstiles clicking again and much-needed cash pumped into their dwindling bank accounts.
This afternoon’s game is also a Munster championship first for new Cork selectors Bobbie O’Dwyer and John Hayes who are in their maiden season under Ronan McCarthy’s stewardship.
O’Dwyer guided Cork to a memorable 2019 All-Ireland minor title following a thrilling extra-time win over Galway in the final while Hayes won a senior All-Ireland in 2010.
They join coach Cian O’Neill and selector Sean Hayes as part of a management team that spreads out to include all other facets like medical, fitness, strength and conditioning and a myriad of related areas.
“I think what you try to do every year is add to your backroom, just like you try to build your team and add to it,” said McCarthy.
“We’ve had really good people involved over the last number of years, right back to Ciarán O’Sullivan, the late Eamonn Ryan and Gary O’Halloran last year.
“We added to it this year with Bobbie, who has had managerial success himself, and John, who was a top player at inter-county and club level.
“John is a real student of the game and deep thinker about the game. They’ve added to us and what you look at then is the dynamic of the group, which has been very positive."
And McCarthy stressed the point that all on board are not of the same mind and are not like nodding puppies in agreeing with everything the manager says.
“I suppose the key thing is that Bobbie, John, and obviously Seán over the last number of years, are willing to challenge.
“We thrash things out and we discuss them. I’m not going to say it’s no-holds-barred, but it’s open and frank discussion about players, systems, tactics, our setup and everything else.
“That’s the only way you can be successful, by challenging each other.”
Cork go into the game as warm favourites, but McCarthy is not underestimating the threat posed by an in-form Limerick.
“They beat us in the final of the McGrath Cup last year above in the Gaelic Grounds and were well-deserving,” McCarthy said.
“Billy Lee has done a fantastic job with them, like other managers in Munster.
“Colm Collins (Clare) and David Power (Tipperary) have done great jobs with their counties and Limerick are no different.
“We went up there to that game last year and Limerick deservedly won on the night, so we didn’t need their big win over Waterford to know that this is going to be a difficult game for us.”