Saturday’s ‘festival of football’ in Castlebar was estimated to have been worth up to €1m to the local economy.
The county town came alive as Mayo and Donegal clashed in MacHale Park. Around 27,000 fans packed into the venue on Saturday night and the town’s bars, restaurants and accommodation options were full to the brim throughout the Bank Holiday weekend.
All accommodation within a 20-mile radius of Castebar was fully booked as Donegal fans travelled in huge numbers and Mayo natives returned home for the crucial Super 8 showdown.
Castlebar Tourism Officer, Michael Baynes, said his office even had requests from match goers seeking couch space as they were so desperate to find somewhere to stay.
“The financial benefits are going to be huge. I think this is the biggest single event in Castlebar in my lifetime. I can’t think of anything else that was as big. This is a Bank Holiday Saturday with 30,000 extra people in the town,” said Mr Baynes. “As Mick Byrne said during the week this is a festival of football,” he added.
Mr Baynes said Castlebar is fortunate to have an asset like MacHale Park and pointed to the stadium’s potential for events in the future.
“A concert up there would have huge potential,” he commented.
It had originally been expected that the attendance on Saturday could be as high as 35,000 but those estimates were scaled back to 31,000 and then 25,000 for health and safety reasons. Anyone who was at the match would agree that a few thousand more spectators would have created significant problems as supporters were still streaming into the ground at the time of throw-in.
However, the majority had arrived in plenty of time with estimates of up to 20,000 in the stadium long before the two teams took to the field. They were treated to pre-match live music performances from Davy Carton of the Saw Doctors, Donegal band Goats Don’t Shave and Westport’s Frank McCaffrey. There was a lively build up all over the town with music performances from local acts in a variety of locations in the heart of Castlebar.