The Government has brought forward the new limit of 500 fans for outdoor sports events to this Saturday. The relaxation had originally been scheduled for Monday July 5th but earlier on Wednesday morning, Minister for Sport Jack Chambers announced on Twitter that the weekend’s GAA matches could benefit from the new upper limit.

“Small but important change for sporting events. The increase in spectator numbers is applicable from this Saturday July 3rd to facilitate increased attendances at matches this weekend. Further proposals on increasing capacity & matches are being developed for July and August.”

This means that in venues with a capacity of 5,000 or more, 500 spectators will be allowed to attend – an increase of 300 on what has been in place to date. Venues with a smaller capacity will see a doubling of permitted crowds from 100 to 200.

The coming weekend is a very busy one for GAA championship fixtures with football championship action in Connacht, Leinster and Ulster and hurling championship semi-finals in Leinster and Munster. There also fixtures in hurling’s McDonagh, Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cups.

The move comes too early for Friday night’s All-Ireland minor semi-final between Limerick and Galway in Ennis, which will be subject to the old limit.

Counties had been hopeful that the new crowd limit would be brought forward after Croke Park got the go-ahead to allow 8,000 to attend Saturday’s Leinster hurling semi-finals.

Other pilot events this weekend are the Connacht football semi-final between Roscommon and Galway at Dr Hyde Park, which will have 1,049 in attendance and the Munster hurling semi-final between Limerick and Cork on Saturday evening, which can be attended by 2,400.

In Ulster where the 500 limit had already been in force, it means that Saturday’s Monaghan-Fermanagh quarter-final will now have the same capacity as Antrim and Armagh on Sunday.