2018 League of Ireland Attendances - Week 1

The SSE Airtricity League of Ireland returned this weekend as the ten teams in the Premier Division kicked off their 2018 seasons. Having seen twelve teams compete in the top tier since 2012, the format was once again shuffled, meaning for the first time since the 2011 season the Premier Division will see five fixtures instead of six each week.


14,460 spectators donned their warm weather jackets, scarfs and hats and made their way to League of Ireland grounds around the country to watch the live football on offer this weekend – that is an average of 2,892 across the five games. But how does that compare to previous years and how does it break down club-by-club?


Opening weekends in the league usually have an attendance boost compared with the rest of the season. In 2017, the opening weekend average for the Premier Division was 2,492 and in 2016 it was 2,973 (the best of the season that year). The 2016 season opening weekend figures were buoyed by a Cork City home crowd that registered their second best of the season and a bumper derby clash between Finn Harps and Derry City that eclipsed all home attendances that followed that season.


Bohemians 3 – 1 Shamrock Rovers

The best crowd of the weekend was the sell-out clash between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers. With a capacity crowd of 3,640, sold-out signs appeared weeks before the game, with a suspension on season ticket sales required to be put in place by Bohs. There is no doubt if the capacity of Dalymount Park could have been increased by a 1,000 or more they would have been optimistic in the hope of those seats being filled.


The attendance figure registers as the highest Dalymount Park crowd over the last two previous seasons and with the bounce of a victory over their Dublin rivals, they will be optimistic for a returning crowd boost for their next home game on the 27th February against Derry City. 


The TV cameras were in the Phibsboro venue on Friday night as the game was broadcast live on RTE2 but it had no effect on the crowd considering it was at capacity.



Sligo Rovers 0 – 1 Limerick

Sligo Rovers have been promoting the #bitored3000 hashtag in advance of their Saturday home game against Limerick. The game was their 3000th and they were aiming to have 3,000 plus fans at the game. They hit their target, registering 3,056 but the script was ruined as Limerick spoiled the party winning 1-0 on the night.


Looking back over the last two previous seasons, it was 918 better than their best crowd of 2017 (1,339 over that season’s average) and you have to go back to the 5th March 2016 to find a better crowd in The Showgrounds for a league game. 3,068 turned up that day for the 2016 opening day fixture against Shamrock Rovers (the season average that year was 1,752). The question is can Sligo Rovers maintain that crowd throughout the season?



St Patrick’s Athletic 2 – 3 Cork City

There was plenty of entertainment for the 2,771 punters that turned up in Inchicore on Friday night. Cork City raced into a 2-0 lead after 11 minutes before goalscorer Graham Cummins was red carded prompting a Saints fight back. By the opening minute of the second-half, Pats were level at 2-2 before an 82th minute Kieran Sadlier goal meant the champions survived to take all three points in a five goal thriller.


The attendance was 228 more than the clubs best showing in 2017 (2,543 – 25th March against Shamrock Rovers) and 684 more than the highest showing in 2016 (2,150 – 24th March against Dundalk). A strong start crowd wise for the Saints and they will be hoping the fighting spirit shown by the team will be enough to see those fans return for their 2nd March home game against Sligo Rovers.



Waterford 2 – 1 Derry City

The RSC had 2,502 in attendance as the Blues made a return to Premier Division football. The party was momentarily disrupted with an 18th minute goal from Armin Aganovic but goals from Gavan Holohan and Dean O’Halloran meant Alan Reynolds men had the perfect start to life in the top tier in front of sizable crowd.


The crowd was only 43 fewer than the last day of the season when the club celebrated promotion but like-for-like it was 1,185 better than their opening 2017 fixture. Waterford’s attendance story really is quite impressive. Last season they were miles ahead of other teams in the First Division and they have started strongly this year but when you go back to 2016, their average crowd was 277.


It goes to show that a club always has the possibility of being one season away from a dramatic attendance improvement or fall in this league.  


Dundalk 0 – 0 Bray Wanderers

It might surprise a few to find the lowest attendance of the weekend was at Oriel Park for Dundalk’s opening home game against Bray Wanderers. 2,491 were present for the equally surprising 0-0 draw to the Seagulls.


The attendance was below the Lilywhites season average of 2,705 last year and 2,738 in 2016. That said, if you look at the last four visits of Bray Wanderers to Dundalk, it ranked second (3,031, 2,705, 1,940, 1,776). Dundalk face Limerick on the 27th February and it will be interesting to see which way that crowd figure swings.


Gameweek 1 Attendances








Bray Wanderers


Waterford FC



Derry City


St. Patrick's Athletic



Cork City


Sligo Rovers








Shamrock Rovers









In Summary

As opening days go, it has been a positive one for attendances. Bohemians was a sell-out. Sligo Rovers hit their target and had the second best crowd in two seasons. St Patrick’s Athletic also had their best showing in two seasons whilst Waterford’s attendance was only pipped into second place over the last two campaigns by 43. Whilst Dundalk’s crowd in comparison to the others and previous season averages looks down, when you look at the previous encounters at home to Bray it paints a much more positive light and well up on two of the four previous meetings.


Now it’s the turn of Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers (again), Cork City, Bray Wanderers, Limerick, along with First Division home fixtures for UCD, Galway United, Drogheda United, Cabinteely and Longford Town to keep the momentum going next week. And more importantly it is also up to you! As we have promoted over the last month #EveryFanCounts and that doesn’t change once the season starts. Find your nearest League of Ireland game, invite a friend, and enjoy some live League of Ireland football.


Premier Division Fixtures


First Division Fixtures


Download: Quick reference Fixture Cards