Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Tyrone's huge clash with Donegal should be played at bigger venue

There is the view that the vast majority of GAA followers prefer to dwell completely on their own teams, thus passing up on opportunities to attend games in which other counties are involved.

While there is undoubtedly substance to this theory, it is not altogether correct.

And at this time of the year many enthusiasts actually plan their summer holidays to ensure that they will NOT miss what they would regard as important matches.

Indeed there are quite a number of fans here in Ulster who make the annual pilgrimage to the Munster hurling final – it's usually held in Semple Stadium, Thurles – and others who make a point of attending the Leinster football decider in Croke Park.

This being the case, it is disappointing to note that the Donegal v Tyrone match is going ahead in Ballybofey in front of some 17,500 spectators on May 26.

I, like many other folk, would have preferred for this game to have been arranged for St Tiernach's Park, Clones where some 30,000 fans would have had the chance to see what, by common consent, is the plum tie of the whole All-Ireland series never mind just the provincial championship.

Thousands of followers who could be described as neutrals – is there such a species? – would love to have the chance to see this game.

Obviously an intense rivalry has been fermented between the teams and the fact Donegal have beaten the Red Hands in the last two Ulster semi-finals lends an extra edge to the tie.

I can fully understand Donegal's desire to maximise home advantage but we all know that in a championship context home advantage is not all that it is made out to be – although when Dublin are taken out of Croke Park they tend to look less than comfortable!

Yet Armagh won an All-Ireland crown and several Ulster titles without kicking a ball at the Athletic Grounds, remember.

Given that Donegal have beaten Tyrone at Clones in each of the past two seasons, their chances of underperforming in the forthcoming clash are unlikely to be any greater irrespective of the location of the game.

There are many, many people who would like to see this game live and this testifies to the appeal of the fixture.

It is late in the day, though, and a decision has been taken in relation to the choice of venue.

But let's hope in future where it becomes abundantly clear that a match will attract well in excess of what the allocated venue might accommodate in terms of numbers then it will be taken to a bigger stadium.

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