Donegal GAA officials have a fight on their hands to stage next summer’s Ulster Championship first round meeting of All-Ireland champions Donegal and Tyrone in Ballybofey, the Democrat/ People’s Press has learned.
The matter is a hot topic in GAA circles around Donegal, and the Democrat/ People’s Press has also learned that it has already been discussed at Ulster Council level.
An announcement on the venue for the games is expected in the next couple of weeks, but a well placed source has confirmed that Donegal officials are going to have a real fight on their hands to convince provincial officials that Sean MacCumhaill Park will be fit to stage the game.
The main difficulty with MacCumhaill Park is one of capacity, but there are other issues, too, such as car parking facilities and stewarding issues.
Ulster officials were far from happy with the level of stewarding provided by Donegal for last summer’s championship game with Derry. This is a matter of public record and was reported to the Donegal county committee at the time by the county’s Ulster representative Edward Molloy.
But the capacity is the major issue. At present the recognised official capacity for Sean MacCumhaill Park is just over 12,000, down from the previous official capacity of 18,500, following the Slatterty report, a national survey of all major grounds last year.
The clash of All-Ireland champions, Donegal and their bigggest challengers, Tyrone, has been pencilled in for Sunday May 26th. The game has the potential to attract an attendance of well over 30,000 and possibly even larger which automatically creates a difficulty for the Ballybofey.
Even if MacCumhaill Park was to carry out the extensive and costly refurbishment works recommended by Slattery, and the capacity of 18,500 was restored, it would still fall well short of the expected attendance.
“As I see it, and it will be disappointing for the county given they are the reigning Ulster and All-Ireland champions, but it is unlikely, when you take into accounts all the facts, that the game will be played in Ballybofey,” said the source.
It is understood that Donegal, Ulster Council officials and members of the National Infrastructure Committee are to meet to discuss the matter in the next week or so and a decision will be made on the matter by the end of the month at the latest.