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Ulster final crowd-pullers posing problems

The Ulster Football Championship Final between reigning title-holders Tyrone and the winners of tomorrow’s second semi-final between Monaghan and Fermanagh could yet go ahead at Croke Park on July 18.

The Ulster Council will meet tomorrow night to decide on its choice of venue for the annual showpiece fixture and their decision could certainly be influenced by events over the course of the next 24 hours.

If Monaghan were to defeat Fermanagh, the possibility of the final being fixed for St Tiernach’s Park, Clones — which has been the traditional home of the decider for decades — might recede as this could be construed as giving Monaghan home advantage.

Given Tyrone’s massive support — even their opening round Ulster tie this year against Antrim attracted 18,000-plus fans — and the fact that Monaghan are enjoying a huge groundswell of goodwill following their stunning victory over Armagh, the indications are that the Clones venue would not have the capacity to cope with the anticipated crowd.

Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney has laid it firmly on the line that this is very much in the nature of a do or die drive for glory by his side although he insists that tomorrow’s semi-final is his sole focus.

“I was there myself to see Fermanagh beat Cavan and we certainly know what we are coming up against tomorrow,” says McEnaney.

Yet nothing must be taken for granted. Fermanagh chairman Peter Carty makes it clear that his side’s ambitions have now increased substantially since the quarter-final win over Cavan.

“I know people have been writing us off but our players believe they can step up much further on their display against Cavan,” states Carty.

Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy points out that various elements will be taken into consideration at tomorrow night’s meeting before any venue decision is arrived at.

“Assuming there is a definite outcome to the Monaghan v Fermanagh game we will look at the final pairing, take on board who might be in the Minor final, assess the fixtures scheduled for the other provinces and consider costs. Obviously the Ulster Championship is building up to what promises to be a great climax,” says Murphy.

Attendances at major Championship fixtures so far this summer have been disappointing. On Sunday last there were only 25,000 fans there for the Leinster Hurling semi-finals while the previous week the stadium was just a little over half-full for two football Championship quarter-finals. The staging of the Ulster football final at Headquarters would certainly help to keep the turnstiles clicking at a rather more rapid rate.

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