33,000 reasons why Tyrone should be facing Donegal in Clones
After the revelation that 1,000 tickets for the meeting between All-Ireland champions Donegal and Tyrone on May 26 in Ballybofey were put on sale on the GAA website gaa.ie on Wednesday –only for a complete sell-out within 40 minutes – Tyrone manager Mickey Harte reflected that the game could have attracted a full house to St Tiernach's Park in Clones.
With an allocation of 18,000, Pairc Sean MacCumhail in Ballybofey will be bursting at the seams come the Ulster Championship first round clash, with the added headache surrounding how each county board is going to distribute their tickets, which have already been issued by the Ulster Council.
"It's going to have an atmosphere all of its own and it's going to be pretty intense," said Harte.
"It's good to see a ground full to the neck and that creates its own atmosphere, but I would like it to have been in Clones with 33,000 instead of Ballybofey with 18,000 or whatever can get in."
Over the winter, Harte had indicated his own personal preference for the tie to be hosted at the Monaghan venue.
Tyrone can also feel aggrieved as, while they were reigning All-Ireland champions in 2009, they were drawn at home against Armagh for a first round game, yet were forced to play it at Clones.
However, the Red Hands boss accepts the outcome.
"I was just saying for the sake of the number of people that would have wanted to watch the game, I just felt that Clones would have been the better venue," he explained.
"But Donegal had the call on it, they were drawn out first so they had the right to look for it and obviously the Ulster Council awarded it to them.
"I have no complaints at all about that.
"I'm just saying that it will be difficult for all those that want to get to the game, to get to Ballybofey and that's probably unfortunate. But we won't change that now."
He also refused to engage in mind games or even suggesting that Donegal had any kind of advantage in playing the game at home.
"You have to play a team on whatever field you have to play them on and if you're not good enough it doesn't matter what field you are on," he added.
"We wouldn't be using that as any kind of an excuse for the thing being any more difficult than it already is."
With Donegal having beaten the past masters twice in the last two years at the Ulster semi-final stage, this simmering rivalry draws comparisons with the Tyrone-Armagh duopoly of the last decade.
"Ourselves and Armagh were vying for pole position in the mid-2000s, and we had many good battles.
"I suppose since we met Donegal the last two years in the Championship and they pipped us, this is take three alright, and it's about time we sorted something out on that front," Harte vowed.