By DECLAN ROONEY
Ladies Gaelic Football Association President Marie Hickey is hopeful the new and improved TG4 championship structures can lead to another bumper summer for the game.
Last year the All-Ireland final attendances peaked at a record 46,286, and in the coming weeks the round robin series of games has thrown up some attractive double-header fixtures.
Speaking at the launch of the TG4 championship and the announcement of TG4's four-year sponsorship extension with the LGFA, Ms. Hickey said the Association hopes to be in a position to play their games at the country's top venues.
And she insisted that Ladies footballers deserved the best facilities to showcase their talent.
"The players seem to be very happy with the new format to the championship. I haven't heard any complaints about it anyway, so that's a good sign," said President Hickey.
"The biggest thing was (throw-in) times, that they wouldn't know when a game was going to be in advance. They know their group and they know when the games are going to be on.
"We want to have all of our games in top grounds and we're striving towards improving that for players. With the tightness of the fixtures it's hard to get county grounds and those type of venues that we're looking for so that's another reason for the double-ups as well.
"We're hoping double-headers will lend themselves to a better attendance too when you've two games going on rather than one."
Already we have seen Dublin, Cork, Galway and Donegal crowned senior champions of their respective provinces but every team across senior, intermediate and junior grades are still in with a chance of winning their All-Ireland.
The group games begin on 14 July with a double-header in Clones, where last year's senior All-Ireland runners-up Mayo face-off against Cavan, while Monaghan host Armagh.
The other round one games see Tipperary face Kerry, while Waterford play Westmeath.
Reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin do not feature in the first round of matches, but they play against Cavan the following weekend and tackle Connacht finalists Mayo in their second game. And their manager Mick Bohan said the new format on show this summer is a step in the right direction but in his opinion there is still room for improvement.
Last weekend Dublin easily accounted for Westmeath in the Leinster final, but without a game to play before the decider, Bohan says his side struggled to hit their peak.
"This stage is good; I'm looking forward to this stage," said Bohan.
"At this stage last year we would have been straight into a quarter final and now we have two games. I think it's a better system, and I'd love to see the system completely change.
"I don't know how Connacht have managed like that for years with one game, and you now you have that system in Leinster.
"We've had nothing to date, and I mean that in regards to the number of matches. Westmeath are exactly the same; they are not battle-hardened and ready for the competition now.
"People can tell you all they want about too many games and players getting fatigued. Every single county is going Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday or Tuesday,Thursday, Saturday. The players are waiting to be out playing that game and so are we, that's how you get better."Tweet