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GAA council on the defensive over match attendances

When Ulster and All Ireland Minor football champions Armagh confront Cavan at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones in the provincial semi-final tomorrow night (7.00pm) it will be the second stand-alone Minor contest in the competition this summer.

Normally Minor matches are staged in tandem with Senior games but the recent Fermanagh v Monaghan Minor clash attracted 3,000-plus fans and tomorrow night’s game is expected to pull in a similar gallery – factors which Ulster Council officials believe have not been taken into account in a reported 15.5% drop in attendances at Championship games in the province this year.

With the forthcoming Tyrone v Monaghan senior final set to be a 35,000 sell-out, the new edict in relation to no replays up to the semi-finals stage having been implemented, the ongoing recession still biting and the fact that all games have been televised live it is felt that an accurate overall picture in relation to attendances is not being presented.

In addition, the advance warnings to the effect that extensive road works are ongoing in close proximity to some venues are believed to have persuaded some fans to remain at home while the World Cup has also of course been holding the spotlight.

“I would have to say that by and large the Ulster Council is reasonably content that attendances have come up to our expectations when all the relevant circumstances are taken into account,” says Council secretary Danny Murphy.

It is being estimated that the GAA at national level could suffer a €1.5million shortfall in gate receipts this summer because of declining attendances but Ulster officials remain upbeat that support is still fairly strong.

Meanwhile, Armagh manager Paul McShane is hoping that his side will prove more convincing against Cavan tomorrow night than they did against either Derry or Monaghan both of whom they have already beaten.

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McShane welcomes back James King following his involvement with Armagh in last Sunday’s Minor hurling final against Antrim and he is optimistic that Conor Gough and Peter Carragher can establish a foothold at midfield to boost the full-forward line of Colin Stevenson, Paul McGeown and Ryan Rafferty.

“We have had a few niggly injuries lately but with a bit of vocal backing from the fans and all-round effort on the part of the players we can get into the decider,” says McShane.

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