Fixtures backlog puts pressure on Derry U21s

Derry’s U21s could be set to play in Armagh’s Athletic Grounds twice in six days after venues for the Ulster final and All-Ireland semi-finals were decided yesterday.
Fixtures backlog puts pressure on Derry U21s

The postponement of both Ulster semi-finals last week caused a backlog, with the Ulster Council under pressure as the All-Ireland semis are scheduled for tomorrow week.

The decision to play the final between Donegal and Derry in Armagh rather Omagh — after the counties couldn’t agree on tossing a coin for home venue — was met with widespread disbelief.

Ballybofey, which hosts Donegal’s county headquarters MacCumhaill Park, is 47km from the Tyrone venue, with Derry’s Celtic Park 60km away from Healy Park. Now, though, Amagh will play host. The worst-case scenario for travelling support is the trek from Glencolmcille in south-west Donegal, which is 178km from Armagh city — or two hours and 42 minutes’ drive according to Google Maps.

“Ridiculous decision to play U21 final in Armagh,” tweeted former Derry forward Paddy Bradley, who was part of the management team at Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal Gaeltacht. “Say there’s extra time again? What time would a supporter from Gweedore get back home. 1am?”

Should Derry win, they will take on Dublin on the Saturday at 2.30pm, while Kingspan Breffni Park will be the venue for Dublin v Donegal. The Kerry-Galway semi-final is slated for Cusack Park in Ennis at 4.30pm that day.

The throw-in times for the Allianz HL Division 1 semi-finals on April 16 have been finalised too, with Limerick hosting Galway in the Gaelic Grounds at 2pm while Tipperary meet Wexford in Nowlan Park at 4pm.

Meanwhile, two-time All-Ireland winner Joe McMahon expects to make a decision on his Tyrone future in the next few weeks and admits retirement is “a possibility”.

The Omagh man hasn’t played for the Red Hands since the 2015 All-Ireland quarter-final win over Monaghan, when he kicked an early point and tore his groin in Croke Park. He has remained in Mickey Harte’s squad since, despite hamstring and calf injuries, but it has been almost two years of frustration.

“I will probably assess things in the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at,” said McMahon, 33. “I feel, every way else, fitness wise and so on, that I am up to it, but this injury has been hampering. There is probably a bit of thinking time to be had over the next few weeks in terms of the injury and whether I will be able to push on.

“It’s been a frustrating few years but I haven’t let that get in my way of getting back to where I want to be. When you see the boys heading onto the pitch, training or playing and you see them out there, you feel withdrawn.

“I’m sure that’s the case for anybody that is going through the rehab process. Despite being there, you are not really there, that kind of thing. You are not going out there playing and kicking balls. But it’s something you are working towards and aspiring to be.”

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