Why Mayo should be more like Cork

An Cailín Rua

FINAL FAIRNESS A Mayo flag is waved on the pitch during the 2017 GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

An Cailín Rua
Anne-Marie Flynn

“There is no agenda here, other than to get our most loyal supporters to Croke Park.”
So reads the closing line of an email sent from the Cork GAA County board a few days ago to Cork GAA season-ticket holders, offering 2020 season-ticket holders – in both codes, hurling and football – the opportunity to purchase a ticket to the upcoming senior hurling final.
It’s been nearly a decade since Cork last graced a final, and there is obviously a hunger there among loyal supporters to be one of the lucky few allowed into Croke Park.
It’s a hunger that many in Mayo know all too well, despite having ample opportunities to watch finals over the past decade. So wouldn’t it be a fantastic gesture if Mayo GAA did something similar here?
At last count, season tickets in Mayo GAA number roughly 4,500, to include both the Croke Park ticket and the Cairde Mhaigh Eo ticket. Demand for these tickets currently outstrips supply, but in the leaner years, the season ticket option was open to anyone who wanted one. The capacity for the final is set to be 40,000 at the time of writing, and hopefully not subject to a Covid-related reduction.
Mayo season tickets represent over 10 percent of this reduced capacity, so admittedly, it would be a big ask to accommodate everyone on that list, last updated in 2020 without compromising club allocations.
Based on observation over the years, the number of Cork GAA season tickets in both codes combined is probably still significantly less than Mayo’s total. But there is a strong and compelling argument to at the very least allocate a meaningful number of tickets to a draw to be held among 2020 season-ticket holders. This would reward their unwavering, unquestionable loyalty shown over the years and give some of them an extra chance of getting their hands on a ticket.
The immediate argument will be that club members – the lifeblood of the GAA – should be prioritised.
That argument remains true, but also fails to consider both the fact that many season-ticket holders are in fact also contributing club members, not guaranteed a ticket either, and that a significant number of Mayo season-ticket holders are based all over the country – abroad, even – and often travel for both ‘home’ and away games. I did it myself for years.
However, the season ticket was designed specifically to reward loyalty and those who consistently attended games. Alongside club members, and often among them, season-ticket holders have shown themselves, time and time again, as willing to pay upfront and put in the miles supporting their team. At a time like this, more than ever, it would be a decent and forward-thinking gesture by this county board to ensure they are not forgotten – or worse, disregarded.
If it is not feasible to offer the opportunity to all season-ticket holders, then at the very least, an imperfect but welcome solution would be that a certain, meaningful number of final tickets should be allocated to a season-ticket-holder draw.
It is unfortunate that any such initiative appears to have already been categorically ruled out in the pages of this paper last week. However, initial enquiries to the GAA hierarchy this week suggest that Mayo GAA do, in fact, have a say in how their tickets are distributed. Cork GAA was able to make that decision – why not Mayo?
There is, of course, no onus or obligation on Mayo GAA to facilitate any arrangement of this sort. Limerick County Board is not doing it. There is already an unenviably heavy burden of administration, particularly around final time. However, given all that has happened over the past decade, given the journey we have all been on, given the universally recognised loyalty of support, and given the various fundraising initiatives that will undoubtedly be coming down the line, it would be astonishing and disappointing if Mayo GAA made no effort to bring at least some of its most loyal supporters in from the cold and give them a nod of thanks.
If we are truly ‘in this together’, it would not only be the right thing to do; it would be the clever thing to do.