MORE than 40,000 GAA fans are set to descend on Limerick this afternoon for the much-anticpated All Ireland senior football replay between Kerry and Mayo.
While, the decision of the GAA to host the replay in Limerick has been criticised in some circles, it has been welcomed locally with the city likely to enjoy a multi-million euro windfall.
Every hotel room in the city has been booked out as its expected the match will be first to completely sell-out the Ennis Road venue since it underwent a major revamp 10 years ago.
“The hour after the announcement was made the phones went crazy,” said Donnacha Hurley, general manager at the Absolute Hotel and Spa. “There are still phones calls coming in but, my God, when that man announced it over the public address and RTÉ said ‘it’s Limerick’, it was just unbelievable. My receptionist was wondering what was going on. It’s great we are all getting the spin-off. Anything that brings people in to experience our city and what it has to offer it a good thing.”
Ronan Branigan, managing director at the Savoy Hotel, said: “It’s fantastic to get it. The phones are hopping and emails are very busy with the internet sites. Hamptons is fully booked as well this weekend. I’m sure there will loads of people strolling around so it’s a great advertising and marketing opportunity for Limerick during City of Culture.”
This evening’s match will be the first All-Ireland semi-final in more than 30 years to be played outside of Croke Park and Mike Riordan, secretary of the Limerick County Board, says he’s thrilled Limerick was chosen to host the replay due to the unavailability of GAA headquarters.
“We are delighted the game is coming to Limerick, it is great for the local economy, Limerick GAA and for the Gaelic Grounds. The economic benefit is phenomenal,” he said.
Helen O’Donnell, chairman of the Limerick City Business Association says the city is likely to receive a multi-million euro boost.
“We are delighted. It is a huge boost to the city centre, to the whole of Limerick, and we are delighted they have selected Limerick as the venue for the match.”
One Mayo man who will be attending the replay is Dominick Reilly. Originally from Belmullet, the retired garda has been living in Limerick for more than 40 years. “I travel to all the [Mayo] games and it is fantastic to be able to attend such an important match so close to home,” he said.
Garda Paul Baynham, who is originally from Castlemaine, County Kerry, is currently stationed at Mayorstone garda station and will be on duty at the Gaelic Grounds this evening.
“I’m looking forward to it, it should be a fantastic occasion and it will be great,” he said.
Meanwhile, Limerick City and County Council is warning that road restrictions will be in place on the Ennis Road from 2pm.
“Match attendants are strongly advised to travel early and to park on and off street in and adjacent to the city centre and to allow ample time to walk to the Gaelic Grounds,” said Rory McDermott of the roads department.
The replay, which throws in at 5pm, will be broadcast on RTÉ Two and Sky Sports 4.