After attracting strong numbers to the opening five fixtures of the SSE League of Ireland last week, it was the turn of the remaining Premier Division sides and five First Division teams getting their campaign up and running to maintain the momentum.
Shamrock Rovers visit to Waterford last week drew the largest attendance in the league (4,152). This week, the Hoops welcomed Derry City to a newly-extended Tallaght Stadium and 4,522 spectators came out to watch the home team beat the Candystripes 2-0.
Compared to Rovers 2018 campaign, this attendance figure would be top of the pile. Comparing it to last season’s two Derry City visits, it was 1,802 greater than the March clash and 1,677 more fans than the June clash. A great start on the pitch and in the stands for the Hoops.
Cork City have blazed a trail with their attendances in the League of Ireland in recent seasons. So how did they fare this week? Their first outing in Turner’s Cross this season drew 4,382 for the visit of and defeat to Waterford.
The Rebel Army opened their home campaign last season against the same opposition but managed to attract 6,443 fans. The June visit of the Blues saw 4,834 spectators come to the Cross. Whilst down on last season, it still would rank as Cork’s fifth best attendance when compared to last season and still a crowd to make most of the other league clubs envious.
In 2018, Sligo Rovers managed to cross the 3,000 mark only once; on the opening day of the season against Limerick which resulted in a 1-0 loss (3,056). This season, St Pats were the opposition, and once again, it ended in a 1-0 defeat, in front of an impressive 3,314 fans. The challenge for the Bit O’Red is to hold onto that viewing audience beyond the opening home fixture.
The two newly promoted teams had their first home games of the season this week. Finn Harps and UCD welcomed Dundalk and Bohemians respectively.
Harps almost had the dream start at home but a 70th minute Brian Gartland goal meant the game ended 1-1 but they still got to celebrate a point against the Champions. Last season Harps crowds never broke the 1,000 mark but their opening effort this campaign saw 1,878 in attendance. If you look back at the Donegal sides 2017 Premier Division season, it is almost a matching crowd for the opening day visit of then Champions Cork City (1,845).
UCD averaged a crowd of 220 in 2017 and 353 in 2018. Their first game in 2019 at home saw 1,609 turn up. To put that in perspective, that represents 35% of their 2018 gate or 52% for 2017 in one game. Unfortunately for the Students they did suffer a 2-0 defeat to Bohemians on the night.
Overall 15,705 punters watched Premier Division football this week, which is down 2,087 on the opening weekend but this a very strong showing with an average crowd of 3,141.
The First Division kicked off this week and bookies favourites Shelbourne travelled to Eamonn Deacy Stadium to face Galway United. Despite leading 2-0 with 16 minutes to go, the Tribesman ended up on the wrong side of a 3-2 scoreline. While this doesn’t soften the pain of the result for Galway, it was extremely positive on the attendances front. The game was watched by 2,174 fans. That is almost 1,000 better than their best crowd of 2018.
Recently relegated Limerick welcomed Longford Town and 814 fans watched the two sides battle out a 0-0 draw. Last season, our attendance figures had a number of estimates, but their opening day crowd would be roughly in and around their season average from last year.
Our Cabinteely and Drogheda United attendances are estimated but we have requested official figures. Our reporters at the game estimated 800 at Cabinteely and 620 in Drogheda. If we get figures from the clubs we will update this article.
Finally, Athlone Town welcomed Wexford and it produced quite the game as the home side recorded a 4-2 win over the visitors who saw Danny Furlong sent off early in the first half. While the crowd of 346 may seem small compared to the other clubs, it is significant to the Midlanders. Only once in the last two seasons did they draw a bigger crowd (March 2017 against Longford Town – 380). With an opening day win, will that boost the bums in seats for their next home outing?
Overall in the First Division, 4,754 people ventured to the five different grounds, an average of 951. In 2018, the opening average was 662, and in 2017 it was 522.
Of course the bumper crowd in Galway has significantly boosted the average but should our Cabinteely and Drogheda estimates remain close to the official figures, it would mean four of the five clubs would have registered better crowds in the opening week than compared to all of last season.
PREMIER DIV GAMEWEEK 2 ATTENDANCE: 15,705 (Down 2,087 on G1)
PREMIER DIV AVERAGE GAMEWEEK 2 ATTENDANCE: 3,141 (Down 417 on G1)
FIRST DIV GAMEWEEK 2 ATTENDANCE: 4,754
FIRST DIV AVERAGE GAMEWEEK 2 ATTENDANCE: 951 (2018 – 662, 2017 - 552)
LARGEST CROWD OF THE WEEK: Shamrock Rovers 2-0 Derry City – 4,522