Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster to 'wait and see' on Ulster senior football final

DUP leader Arlene Foster with Fermanagh GAA vice chairman Phil Flanagan, senior manager Rory Gallagher and Tom Boyle Fermanagh GAA secretary. Picture by Philip Magowan, PressEye
Gareth McKeown

DUP leader Arlene Foster has moved a step closer to making a landmark appearance at Ulster Senior Football Championship final after meeting with the Fermanagh team at the weekend.

Mrs Foster, who has never attended a GAA match before, met with representatives from her native county on Saturday evening as they prepare for the Ulster final clash with Donegal in Clones, Co Monaghan on Sunday. It is the Erne county's first appearance in the final since the 2008 replay defeat by Armagh.

The former First Minister met Fermanagh county board officials and team members at the Lough Erne Resort on Saturday, where a team gathering took place after a training session and brought with her a good luck card, which she signed "from a proud Fermanagh woman to her neighbours". In return she was presented with a team jersey and was photographed with the Fermanagh senior team manager, Rory Gallagher, and members of the board.

Speaking to RTÉ news Mrs Foster said she had outlined to members of her own party and support base it was important to reach out the hand of friendship to "our neighbours" and "that's what I am trying to do".

When asked if she would be attending Sunday's final, the Fermanagh assembly member said "we will wait and see".

There are strong suggestions that Mrs Foster will attend Sunday's game and it is understood she is "keen to go" to the match, with indications discussions are ongoing with gardaí about her travel and security for the Clones final, which will see Fermanagh attempt to lift their first provincial crown.

The DUP leader hailed the county’s success in making its first final in a decade with a shock semi-final win over Monaghan through a post on social media.

Mrs Foster wrote: “Congratulations to my fellow county men who have just surprised those in the know.”

The tweet was welcomed by many on social media as a positive gesture and even prompted a member of the Fermanagh squad to tweet her back with the offer of a ticket. At the time the Fermanagh Assembly member said she had not been formally invited, but would consider an invitation if it arrived.

The GAA's Ulster Council has declined to say whether Mrs Foster has been invited to the game.

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