Northern Ireland news

Video: One road leads to Croke Park for Tyrone and Monaghan fans

Tyrone footballers Gemma Begley, Kieran McGeary and Brendan Burns help children in Pomeroy cool down after a week's exertions at one of the county's popular GAA summer camps. Picture by Mal McCann

ALL roads lead to Croke Park on Sunday for neighbours Tyrone and Monaghan - or, more accurately, one in particular.

Tens of thousands of supporters will be making the trip along the A5/N2 for the all-Ulster, All-Ireland football semi-final.

It is the main route to Dublin for anyone coming from the west of Tyrone.

Cars from Omagh to Aughnacloy in the north and Emyvale to Monaghan Town across the border will share the same route.

Kieran McGeary signs autographs for Tyrone supporters in Pomeroy. Picture by Mal McCann

And Monaghan fans are preparing a colourful welcome for their opponents as they pass through the Farney county, which is expected to be met by a noisy, horn-heavy reply.

Towns in Tyrone, meanwhile, are preparing `fan zones' for those left at home.

Few tickets are expected to be available for the eagerly-awaited match come this weekend.

It is Monaghan's first semi-final appearance since 1988 and some estimate up to half the county's population - about 30,000 - will be at Croke Park, as the `Farney army' hopes to end 30 years of hurt.

Tyrone fans travelling to Dublin can expect to run a blue and white gauntlet as they make their way through the towns and villages.

Barry Sherry from the Emyvale club near the border said signs and bunting would line Main Street and he expects the rival fans will engage in some good-natured banter.

"Every supporter the length and breadth of the county will be going. With a small population and growing interest, there won't be many left in Monaghan," he said.

RTÉ football analyst and organ donation campaigner Joe Brolly visited the club this week as it became the latest to adopt the 'Opt for life' logo on team jerseys.

Tyrone player Frank Burns signs young fans' shirts at a GAA summer camp in Pomeroy

Young players took the opportunity to photoshop the Derry All-Ireland winner into Monaghan colours, with the club joking: "Thank you Joe for finally confirming with us all this evening that you'll be wearing the Monaghan colours on Sunday. You know a great team when you see it."

Meanwhile, impressionist and columnist Oliver Callan from Inniskeen has posted a digital poem - A Monaghan Story - as excitement builds ahead of the match.

Former world champion boxer, the `Clones Cyclone' Barry McGuigan was among those from the county to praise Callan's work.

In it, Callan lamented "barren years, Ulster tears, a long All-Ireland losing cycle" while standing outside Páirc Uí Néill in Clontribret.

"We dream, we scream, we're as hopeful as we've ever been," he said.

"And I know it's a big ask, but we've 16 Ulster titles in these wee drumlin hills, like eggs across a basket.

"We need to win, we have to win, for that All-Ireland we've been starvin'."

Excitement is building in Tyrone too.

In Omagh, Main Street is hosting both the Omagh Food Festival and a Tyrone fan zone. It will be open indoors and out, with rain expected on Sunday.

And yesterday, Tyrone ladies star Gemma Begley joined county players Kieran McGeary, Frank Burns and his brother Brendan at a GAA summer camp in Pomeroy, handing out ice creams to young fans and signing autographs ahead of the big match.

Tyrone's Kieran McGeary signs young fans' jerseys at a GAA summer camp in Pomeroy. Picture by Mal McCann

Tyrone's Frank Burns signs the boot of a young Pomeroy fan at a GAA summer camp. Picture by Mal McCann

Children enjoy a GAA summer camp in Pomeroy. Picture by Mal McCann

Kieran McGeary along with brothers Brendan and Frank Burns sign jerseys for young fans in Pomeroy during a Tyrone GAA summer camp. Picture by Mal McCann

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