Northern Ireland news

Armagh and Derry fans to take over Croke Park

Pupils at Gaelcholáiste Dhoire in Dungiven, Co Derry, wishing teacher and Derry captain Chrissy McKaigue good luck in today's match

ARMAGH and Derry fans are gearing up for their biggest games in years at Croke Park this weekend.

Demand for tickets for the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-finals has far outstripped supply, with both teams enjoying a resurgence in the last year.

Excitement in both counties was high yesterday, with one fan vowing that Armagh would not just beat Galway but would lift the Sam Maguire this year.

St John the Baptist School in Portadown held a 'wear Orange for Co Armagh' day yesterday.

P4 and PE teacher Maeve McDonald said she was thrilled that so many children had taken part.

"Armagh's going to win the All-Ireland," she said.

Derry captain Chrissy McKaigue is a PE teacher at Gaelcholáiste Dhoire in Dungiven, Co Derry.

Mr McKaigue was handing out sporting prizes at the school yesterday, ahead of today's match against Clare.

Principal Diarmaid Ua Bruadair said the school is hugely proud of his achievements on the pitch and his work off it.

"As Chrissy is preparing for the match we celebrated his achievements in school," he said.

"He prepares a lot of our teams for matches."

Derry captain Chrissy McKaigue with the Anglo-Celt Cup after his team won the Ulster Senior Football Championship

The Irish medium school, based in Dungiven Castle, has teams which have played in Ulster colleges' competitions in hurling, football, ladies' football and camogie.

"We're a small school. A lot of that is down to the hard graft and work that Chrissy has put in to, not just the PE classes, but also taking the teams and preparing for competitions," he said.

"This year we have won The Irish News Cup, the Leopold Cup, the Foyle Cup and the Nannery Cup and we've been in three other finals that we lost."

He added: "We have achieved that without any of our own dedicated sports facilities," he said.

The school uses the town's leisure centre and GAA pitches at nearby clubs.

However, it aims to have its own facilities by 2023.

Armagh fans yesterday vowed to 'turn Croker Orange' and posted dozens of photos on social media, showing their support.

Elaine McKeown, secretary for Tir na nÓg in Portadown, said she had not missed a match in years and would be travelling with her family to Dublin early on Sunday.

She said there "won't be anyone in Portadown on Sunday and it'll be the same all over Armagh".

"When you've got to the quarter final you're in the best eight teams in Ireland this year," she said.

"I think Armagh have the best supporters in Ireland."

She added: "These are great days. It's great PR for our sport. The knock-on effect on our clubs is brilliant.

"My own lad is 17 on Monday and I have a photograph of him when he was two or three years old when Armagh last won Ulster."

Richard Hendron, the public relations officer for Tir na nÓg, said he had spotted several die-hard supporters online who have painted their cars orange.

"There's a real surge this time," he said.

"The youngsters of today have never experienced anything like this. I have a 16-year-old son who plays. He was born at the end of the golden era. He hasn't had that experience of Croke Park.

"It's a very exciting time for everybody."

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