GAA Football

Donegal boss Declan Bonner has 'no interest' in facing Tyrone anywhere but Ballybofey

MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey is scheduled to host the Ulster Championship clash between Donegal and Tyrone on October 31/November 1 - although a possible switch to Croke Park has been mooted. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

DONEGAL boss Declan Bonner insists he has “no interest” in the Tir Chonaill’s Ulster Championship showdown with Tyrone being played at Croke Park - or anywhere other than MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey.

Although the master fixture plan was published last Friday, venues have yet to be confirmed for Ulster Championship games. The clash between defending champions Donegal and Tyrone - scheduled for October 31/November 1 - is the glamour quarter-final tie, with Bonner’s men handed home advantage when the draw was originally made.

However, the GAA is awaiting guidance in relation to the use of terracing at grounds across Ireland amid concerns about maintaining current social distancing guidelines outside of seated sections.

Such capacity restrictions would only allow a crowd of around 1,100 inside MacCumhaill Park on October 31/November 1, with a possible switch to Croke Park – where up to 21,000 supporters could be accommodated –mooted over the weekend.

Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy admitted GAA officials had been sounded out about the possibility of hosting Ulster Championship games at Croke Park, but said a decision on venues had yet to be reached.

Bonner, though, says Donegal will be doing “everything in our power” to ensure the game goes ahead in Ballybofey.

“We’ve been given home advantage in the first round of the Championship, that’s the way we’re looking at it,” he said.

“I find it a bit strange that four weeks before the fixture is even going to take place that they’re talking about changing the venue. We’ve seen what has happened over the last four weeks and how things have moved on, who knows what the end of October/start of November will look like.

“From our point of view it’s a home match in Ballybofey. I see no reason that it would be anywhere else. I’m sure that’s the way our county officials will be looking at it as well.

“We’ll not be looking to move it, that’s for sure, and we’ll be doing everything in our power to make sure the game goes ahead in Ballybofey. I’ve no interest in playing it anywhere else to be quite honest.

“Whatever needs to be done to get the game played in MacCumhaill Park, that’s it. Whether that means there’s 5,000 or 10,000 spectators, so be it. The draw laid out a home draw for us, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of water under the bridge between now and the end of October.”

The Tir Chonaill men will have two National League games to play – the first of those also against Tyrone in Ballybofey – before the Championship gets under way.

And Bonner says that, after months of uncertainty, it is a relief to finally have dates in the diary.

“Definitely - it’s what we’ve been looking for. It didn’t look great late on in March and then into April, even in May when John Horan was on The Sunday Games, it looked ominous at that stage.

“So it’s brilliant that guys are back with their clubs now, and those weeks will fly in. It’s great to have that and hopefully things continue the way they have done and there is no second wave to halt everything again.

“It’s been handled reasonably well, the numbers are well reduced in both the north and the south, so we’re hoping it continues that way and that football will be played.”

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GAA Football