Fan power lifts Ulster chiefs
Ulster Council chairman Martin McAviney believes that the current provincial club football championship could prove to be the most successful ever.
With attendances reaching unprecedented heights, the quality of play surpassing expectations and the very real prospect of a spectacular climax to the competition, McAviney is convinced that new ground is about to be broken.
Sunday's quarter-final replay, in which Kilcoo beat Crossmaglen Rangers, attracted 9,670 paying customers and this came hard on the heels of the 8,000-plus fans who flocked through the turnstiles at Pairc Esler, Newry for the drawn game on the previous Sunday.
"These are the kind of crowds that you don't expect to see in darkest November," points out McAviney. "There are many high-profile county games in peak summer which would not see such figures returned.
"This surely gives some idea of the intrinsic appeal of the Ulster club championship and the status that the competition enjoys."
McAviney is convinced that the Council's idea to play double-bill fixtures with either a junior or intermediate club championship tie being staged in tandem with a senior club fixture is proving a winner.
"Fans of the intermediate and junior clubs are every bit as committed and passionate as those who follow the senior clubs, so we should not be surprised at the level of fervour engendered, nor indeed by the numbers that are currently turning up," points out McAviney.
"The fact that we are able to put up the level of entertainment which we have had to date explains why there has been such a response from the public," he adds. "The challenge now is to maintain these standards."