Munster SH Final for Thurles?

GAA braced for downturn 

By Colm O’Connor 

THE GAA will undertake a major belt-tightening exercise next season in an attempt to find savings of €6m. The global economic downturn is expected to hit Ireland hard next year and the Association chiefs are already planning for a worst case scenario. Delegates at a weekend Central Council meeting were warned that the recession will impact hugely on sporting organisations next year with falling revenue across the board and targeted a €6m cost cutting exercise in the New Year. Sources predict that attendance figures could drop by as much as 10% in the All-Ireland hurling and football championships but despite such concerns, Association officials remain steadfast in their decision not to increase admission prices in 2009. The decision to abolish replays for first-round championship games could also be a blow to the coffers but delegates agreed that their would be no U-turn on this either. The economic slowdown will also mean fewer major conferences in Croke Park next year, another blow to the Croke Park money-men. However Croke Park will not be dipping into the millions earned from the opening of Croke Park to other sports while Lansdowne Road is being reconstructed. Rental per game is approximately €1.35m, yielding an average of €10m a year. However sources insist that the all of this money is ring-fenced for clubs, county boards and provincial councils. Each county will receive €250,000 specifically for clubs. Committees are currently working on proposals which must be reviewed by national bosses before the monies can be drawn down. A separate scheme will be available for county and provincial projects. Despite the doom and gloom there was some good news with Croke Park’s debt in the region of €15m. “The GAA has never been better financially, now we must ensure we stay that way,” said a source. Meanwhile Munster Council chairman Jimmy O’Gorman is “strongly considering” a request from Tipperary to hold the 2009 Munster senior hurling final in Thurles as part of the GAA’s 125th anniversary celebrations. O’Gorman has confirmed that Premier County officials are anxious to host the provincial showpiece at Semple Stadium and the Waterford native believes that existing ‘home and away’ arrangements could be parked for a year to accommodate the request. During the course of his address to Tipperary annual convention last Sunday, outgoing chairman John Costigan issued a fresh appeal to Munster Council for the right to stage the provincial final. Costigan paid tribute to Semple Stadium chairman Con Hogan and looked forward to February’s historic floodlit showdown with Cork. Costigan added: “Let’s hope as part of the 125-year anniversary celebrations of the founding of the GAA in the Cathedral Town that Munster Council will honour us by staging the provincial hurling final of 2009 in the Association birth place.” As things stand, the redeveloped Semple Stadium will house all of next year’s Munster senior championship games, with the possible exception of a Clare v Tipp semi-final. No venue for the Munster final has been set but O’Gorman said: “That request from Tipperary is before us and it’s a matter that we will look at very shortly. I would expect a decision before convention in February and I can certainly see merit in the proposal. “The Centenary All-Ireland final (1984) was played there and though the situation with ‘home and away’ agreements is a bit complex, if the Council were to agree to Tipperary’s request, I’m sure that ‘home and away’ arrangements would be shelved for the year. But it’s a matter for the Council and the counties.”

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