LIMERICK is set for a mass exodus this weekend as up to 35,000 hurling fans head to Croke Park.
The senior hurlers face Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final at 3.30pm, while the minors face Galway at 1.30pm on Sunday.
The streets of Limerick are expected to be deserted for the county’s biggest game in many years, with predictions that more than 60,000 will file into Croke Park.
Some 12,000 tickets had been sold by Monday from the GAA offices, with county secretary Mike O’Riordan saying they anticipate selling 750 tickets a day between now and Sunday.
No figure is yet available for the number of tickets bought by Limerick people in other outlets, including Tickets.ie, Centra and Supervalu stores.
But estimates have suggested that between 30,000 and 35,000 fans will travel from Limerick.
Respected local sports broadcaster Liam Aherne this Monday went further, tweeting he had heard around 40,000 tickets had been sold to Limerick fans.
What is likely though is that the Limerick contingent will outnumber those from Clare.
Buses and trains from the city are being quickly booked up, with fans now advised to guarantee their seats as soon as possible. And businesses in the city have enjoyed a boost with sales of jerseys at levels not seen since the Celtic Tiger years.
A spokesperson for Irish Rail has reported that two services between Limerick and the capital - at 8.25 and 10.25 - are already sold out.
An extra train is running from Limerick at 9.15am, but customers are asked to book these online at www.irishrail.ie, as they will not be available on the day.
Bus Eireann will also be running three special services, to Connolly station, where trains connect to Croke Park.
Seats are still available on two of these - at 7.30am and 8am.
Customers are advised to once again book early, at the ticket office in Colbert station.
Among the private operators, JJ Kavanagh has promised extra capacity on its services from Arthur’s Quay and UL to Dublin.
A company spokesman said they had seen a “marked increase” in enquiries - and they will be putting extra capacity on their departures at 9am and 11am, with the advice to fans to arrive early.
Dublin Coach has set up a special hotline to assist fans travelling to the game.
A spokesman for the firm - which runs services at 15 minutes to each hour from Arthur’s Quay - said: “To guarantee your seat, you should pre-book by calling a dedicated number, 087-3915111”.
Christy Williams, manager of Limerick Sports Store in William Street said they had sold out of certain Limerick jersey sizes.
He had to draw on his suppliers for extra stock twice since Limerick beat Tipperary.
“Croke Park is going to be a sea of green. I think we will outnumber Clare fans two to one,” he said.