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Brilliant Championship shouldn't be taken for granted

Play it again: Armagh ace Aidan Forker and Cavan's Martin Reilly
Play it again: Armagh ace Aidan Forker and Cavan's Martin Reilly
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Intricacies of the GAA rulebook, part 4,789 in a never-ending series.

If Saturday night's Ulster semi-final between Tyrone and Donegal ends level at the end of normal time, two 10-minute periods will be played. If it is level after all of that, then it will go to a replay.

The following day, Fermanagh are guests of Monaghan in Round One of the All-Ireland Qualifiers. If they finish level at the end of the 70-odd minutes, they will play two 10 minutes of extra time. If they cannot be separated at that point, then penalties will determine who goes through.

Straight after that, Armagh and Cavan will be playing their replay. If they once more take it to extra-time, two 10-minute periods will apply before another two periods of extra time, five minutes long.

And if they are level after that? Penalties. Same competition - sort of - same game, and three different ways to decide the outcome.

Anyway, this weekend ranks as one of the biggest in the history of the Ulster Council. With two semi-finals of their own Championship going on, you may not be aware that while the Monaghan-Fermanagh game is under the auspices of the GAA at central level, they still implore the small group of Ulster Council volunteers for all their stewarding needs.

Indeed, mass will be said this Saturday night in Kingspan Breffni by Fr Brian D'Arcy after the game for all those volunteers who will be expected to be in Clones in time for duties on Sunday morning - just as it was in the Athletic Grounds and at the Cavan-Monaghan Saturday night games.

It's easy to slip into hackeneyed mode about all of this, but there was an hour there from halfway through the second half last Sunday in Clones, until ten minutes after the game, where my hands were vibrating with pins and needles, just sitting there recording the key events of the game.

This has been a brilliant Ulster Championship, and with 40,000 expected at Clones and Breffni this weekend, it's easy to take for granted. Which is why it was so surprising and disappointing to hear one podcast this week dedicating time to talking about who played badly last weekend. Nobody deserves that.

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