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Donegal win their battle to host Tyrone

By John Campbell

The plum Ulster championship quarter-final tie between All-Ireland champions Donegal and Tyrone will take place at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey on Sunday, May 26.

Since the draw was made back in October, there had been speculation that Donegal might have to forfeit home advantage for the match because it was felt that the Ballybofey venue would not accommodate the anticipated crowd.

But at a meeting of the Ulster Council Competitions Control committee last night it was confirmed that Donegal will have home advantage.

It is understood that huge improvements have been carried out at the venue by the Donegal county board which will facilitate the staging of the match.

Donegal are currently battling against relegation in Division One of the Allianz League while Tyrone in contrast have booked their place in the semi-finals and in fact beat Jim McGuinness's team en route to the last four.

Indeed the Red Hands have lost just once since the start of the year and that was to Cork earlier this month at Healy Park, Omagh.

But manager Mickey Harte has remained adamant that Tyrone will be ready to face Donegal in the provincial championship irrespective of the venue. It had been thought initially that the Ulster Council might stage the game in St Tiernach's Park, Clones which can accommodate 30,000-plus fans but this would mean that Donegal would have to forfeit home advantage.

Ulster Council PRO John Connolly said that the governing body had reached "a fair decision." He said: "The Donegal board has spent a lot of money on bringing the Ballybofey ground up to standard to host this game and the clubs of that county have put their hands in their pockets as well.

"This being the case it is only right that Donegal should be accorded home advantage. This is a fair decision. It is Ulster Council policy that if a team is drawn first out of the hat then if all other things are equal they should have the right to play at home."

Donegal are aiming to land a hat-trick of Ulster titles while the new-look Tyrone side is keen to return to the provincial throne having last won the title in 2010.

To add spice to the forthcoming clash, Donegal overcame Tyrone in the Ulster semi-finals in 2011 and again last year.

Following their All-Ireland triumph, manager Jim McGuinness admitted that Tyrone had provided their biggest test in the championship overall (0-12 to 0-10) in a match in which a last-gasp goal-bound effort from Martin Penrose was deflected to safety by goalkeeper Paul Durcan's leg.

The Ulster Council has also confirmed that the Derry v Donegal U21 football semi-final will be played at Omagh on Wednesday, April 3 while Cavan and Down will meet in Armagh in the other semi-final on the same night.

Belfast Telegraph


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