KILKENNY have ‘Operation Big Match’ at the ready, and they are looking forward with confidence to staging the Allianz National Hurling League final at Nowlan Park on Sunday week, writes John Knox.
The two form teams and biggest crowd pullers of the moment, Kilkenny, the defending champions, and Tipperary will go head-to-head in what is not only the League showdown but is also a meeting of the top two in the roll of honour.
Tipp head the League honours list with 19 victories, while their opponents are chasing their 16th title after claiming six in recent times.
“We are ready for this,” insisted Kilkenny Events Controller and County Board PRO, Seamus Reade.
“All the plans during the development of Nowlan Park have been geared towards being ready to handle games of this magnitude.”
At the ready
A major event plan is being finalised involving GAA officials, the Local Authorities, Gardai and medical personnel.
Kilkenny have been through this sort of thing before, so they have a fair idea of the routine.
Some years ago a crowd in excess of 20,000 was hosted in the ’Park for an All-Ireland Qualifier between Wexford and Waterford.
This time a crowd in excess of 15,000 is expected. While some might think that is a conservative estimate bearing in mind the huge rivalry between the counties and their current elevated status, the crowd at the two semi-finals in Thurles on Sunday was slightly above the 14,000 mark.
When Kilkenny and Tipperary met in the League final of 2009, the attendance was in the region of 16,000.
“Whatever the size of the crowd, we will be ready,” Mr Reade insisted.
An army of 200 volunteers drawn from the ranks of local GAA clubs, backed up by Gardai, will be on duty. The County Board has in the region of 80 trained and certificed stewards, and the balance will be made up by general club officials.
“The key to all of this is the support we receive from clubs, and they have never been found wanting,” Mr Reade insisted. “This is not just a challenge for the County Board, it is a challenge for all the clubs in Kilkenny.”
The regular monthly meeting of the County Board has been brought forward to Monday night, when club delegates will be brought up to speed on all aspect of staging of the big event.
The capacity of Nowlan Park has been set at 23,000 for safety reasons.
All about the tickets
With seating for over 18,000 patrons, the Kilkenny venue has the biggest seating capacity in Leinster outside of Croke Park.
The final will be an all ticket affair. Seating is unreserved, which means patrons will be accommodated on a first come, first served basis.
Adult tickets cost E20 (stand) and E15 (terrace) if purchased before midnight on Saturday week. Senior citizens and students must purchase full price tickets, but they will get a E10 refund at designated stiles.
Juveniles will also require tickets (E5). GAA season tickets will be valid for the game.
Provided the game is not sold out in advance, tickets will be on sale on the day outside the ground, but they will cost E25 each.
The last League final played in the 'Park was in 1962/63 between Waterford (winners) and New York (replay).
The League final of 1958/59 involving Waterford and Tipperary (winners) was also played at the popular Kilkenny hurling venue.