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Derry chairman Stephen Barker says fans’ enthusiasm for All-Ireland run has been ‘almost overpowering’

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Derry chairman Stephen Barker

Derry chairman Stephen Barker

©INPHO/James Crombie

Derry chairman Stephen Barker

The GAA certainly has cause for optimism given the contribution that fans from Armagh and Derry have made to its Croke Park coffers of late.

While Derry supporters flocked to Headquarters last Saturday to see their side dismantle Clare, there was an even bigger influx from Armagh on Sunday for the meeting with Galway when the venue was transformed into a proverbial sea of orange.

But Derry followers are now expected to achieve a new peak in attendance terms as they prepare for a Croke Park ‘takeover’ when Saturday week’s All-Ireland semi-final against Galway is staged.

However, the famed red and white colours will have to merge not only with the maroon of Galway but with the colours of Cavan and Westmeath who will contest the inaugural final of the Tailteann Cup immediately preceding the Derry v Galway tie.

Derry county board officials are convinced that the massive upsurge in interest will be brought to a new level against a Galway side that will be bidding for a first All-Ireland title since 2001.

Derry chairman Stephen Barker believes that the football fever which has enveloped the county can prove the ‘16th man’ when push comes to shove.

“It has taken a long time to get this far and, to be very honest, I must say that the enthusiasm of the fans is almost overpowering,” he says.

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"We have been taking one match at a time — and gingerly at that — but to have reached the last four of the All-Ireland series and to be going back to Croke Park to face Galway is just fantastic.

“Given the problems that people are facing right now in relation to Covid and the soaring cost of living, the progress of our county team is proving a great distraction from these issues right now. The challenge now for the side is to go the extra mile against Galway and reach an All-Ireland final against Dublin or Kerry. It does not get much better than that but we will keep our feet on the ground and hope for the best.

“Obviously we watched Galway playing against Armagh and they are a good side by any standards.

“They are solid in midfield, their defence gives little away and in Damien Comer, Shane Walsh and Robert Finnerty in particular, they have three quality forwards who are more than capable of asking questions of the best defences.”

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