McDonnell: Euro final can’t dictate Ulster timing

ARMAGH captain Steven McDonnell said the GAA would do itself a disservice if it decided to change the start time of the county’s Ulster SFC quarter-final against Down on May 28 so as not to clash with the Champions League final.

Before Manchester United qualified for the decider against Barcelona, the Ulster Council were adamant they were not going to alter the 7.30pm throw-in time at the Athletic Grounds, 30 minutes after the kick-off in Wembley.

The Killeavy man commended council secretary’s stated refusal to change the time. “The fixture list of the GAA was made last October and the Armagh-Down game was scheduled for television coverage on the Saturday night and it sticks to the 28th at 7.30pm,” said Danny Murphy earlier this week.

McDonnell believes it’s of the utmost importance for the GAA not to be seen to cow-tow to another sport.

“The GAA shouldn’t be switching for any game regardless of who is in the final,” insisted the three-time All Star forward.

“If it was a national league final then yes, you might consider it, but this is the game we’ve been preparing for since the draw was made back last October.

“The GAA have to show that what comes first is the championship and nothing else. We have been gearing ourselves for a Saturday night and I’m sure the Down players are the same. It’s very important the GAA keep to that.”

In 2002, the Ulster Council were left embarrassed after deciding to go ahead with the provincial SFC semi-final between Derry and Donegal in Celtic Park while Ireland’s world Cup last 16 game with Spain had gone into extra-time.

The first-half was played in front of a scattering of patrons as Derry and Donegal supporters delayed their arrival at the stadium until the soccer was over.

However, McDonnell insists a repeat situation is highly unlikely on May 28 as there is much attraction in the game between the neighbours.

“I know league games have been moved because of Heineken Cup games but championship is a different story especially as it’s a derby and there’s a lot of interest in this game.

“There’s a huge amount of players and supporters who follow soccer clubs in England. Having said that, it shouldn’t dictate our own games. If it was Ireland and a competition that came around once every four years a switch might have to be considered. This isn’t one of those occasions, though.”

Meanwhile, defender Conor Garvey is the latest Down player to pick up an injury ahead of the Ulster opener. Benny Coulter is rated as doubtful after picking up a hamstring injury and his Mayobridge club-mate Garvey is believed to have picked up a similar problem. Ronan Clarke is the only Armagh fitness concern.

Picture: Armagh captain Steven McDonnell leads out his team in the game against Dublin. Picture: INPHO


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