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The primary games get under way at half time as Eoin the bomber Liston is interviewed on the big screen at half time during the Munster senior football final at The Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Photograph by John Kelly.

All-Ireland big screen dilemma

A PLAN to show the All-Ireland hurling final on a big screen in Ennis has resulted in mixed reactions.
It has been suggested the idea could negatively impact on pubs, hotels and restaurants that would otherwise benefit from the day, although members of the business community do not appear to see this as a material issue, according to town manager Ger Dollard.
“The views of all members of Ennis Town Council have also been canvassed and there is unanimous support for such a proposal if it is financially and logistically feasible and would receive public support,” he said.
Ennis Chamber CEO Rita McInerney said the overall consensus among members is the benefits of providing a big screen as part of a major event would outweigh any possible negatives.
The town council is to make a decision later this week if it will organise a large event at a town centre venue and provide a big screen for supporters who are not in possession of an elusive ticket to see Clare take on Cork at Croke Park.
While Ennis Chamber and Ennis Town Councillor, Johnny Flynn, believe this event would be a great  Year of the Gathering highlight for families, the town council is not yet fully convinced this proposal is financially and logistically feasible.
The overall costs associated with staging an event in a venue like Abbey Street car park, including the big screen, would be in excess of €20,000, based on costs incurred in the 2009 Muhammad Ali event.
Since Clare’s victory over Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final, the council has been considering events around the Banner’s participation in the final. The idea of a big screen showing a major match has been used in other locations in recent years, including Limerick City for the Heineken Cup.
Mr Dollard confirmed over the past week the council has sought views in relation to the idea of installing a large screen in the town centre.
“The feedback has been varied. There is a concern around negatively impacting on the pubs, hotels and restaurants that would otherwise benefit from the day, although members of the business community do not appear to see this as a material issue.
“The point is also made that previous matches screened at other locations was done on the basis that the match was on outside of the country and was only available on cable television.
“In such circumstances, a large crowd would be expected to support a big screen showing. A further area for consideration is the level of support that might be available given the likely exodus from Clare to Croke Park and the availability of manpower to adequately manage and stage such an event. Weather is also a factor to be taken into consideration,” he outlined.
The council is looking at all issues around Clare’s participation in two All-Ireland hurling deciders in the coming weeks. Any necessary plans will be finalised in consultation with the GAA, gardaí and other parties including the Fire Service and Civil Defence.
The use of O’Connell Square (the Height) has been ruled out as the town council believes it is not a suitable location from a public safety perspective, given the narrow streets and the limited viewing area available when large crowds are present.
Ms McInerney acknowledged there may be a reduction in the number of patrons attending pubs and restaurants during the match but pointed out this would be counteracted by the fact a big screen would be far more attractive for families, who might stay out for longer and go for a meal and some refreshments.
She proposed that Cusack Park should also be considered as a location for the event, in consultation with Clare GAA. If this proposal is acceptable to Clare GAA, she pointed out Cusack Park would have the benefit of providing some covered accommodation in the event of inclement weather, toilet facilities and seating for those who would not be able to stand for long periods.
Regardless of what venue is chosen, if this is approved, she said she wouldn’t object if the organisers charged a nominal fee for adults to help cover the cost, once children are free.
While Clare GAA County Board chairman, Michael McDonagh, was not aware of the Cusack Park opinion when contacted on Wednesday, he said the board is prepared to enter into discussions concerning any realistic and feasible proposal with all interested parties, including the town council, the Chamber and gardaí if asked to.
Mr McDonagh said he personally did not think Cusack Park would be a suitable venue for a big screen from a viewing perspective.
Councillor Johnny Flynn believes staging a major event with the assistance of commercial sponsors would be a good tourism marketing opportunity for the Active Ennis brand.
“With improved flights in and out of the now independent Shannon Airport, the proposed free public event in Ennis could be a more accessible local focal point for people who are abroad and who might want to be part of the All-Ireland weekend.
“There could be an opportunity for the Ennis and Clare hospitality to build a local tourist product attractive to wider Irish GAA supporters around the weekend, if the large screen was planned,” he said.
Ennis resident Dermot Hayes is promoting his Big Idea of watching the match on a big screen in Ennis, Kilrush, Shannon and Ennistymon.
“When Ennis hosted Ali some years ago a big screen in the Abbey Street car park was just brilliant. I was there and still remember the buzz. In Limerick in 2006 when Munster played in the Heineken Cup thousands came out to enjoy this social event.
“These memories are appreciated. So why not do it for the big match,” he said.

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