GAA Football

Donegal have every right to host Ulster Championship clash with Tyrone: Michael McKernan

Ardboe's Shay McGuigan and Coalisland 's Michael McKernan (right) in action last season. McKernan thinks Donegal should host their Championship match with Tyrone Picture: Philip Walsh.
Francis Mooney

DONEGAL have found an unlikely ally in their fight to hold on to home advantage for their Ulster SFC clash with Tyrone.

Tyrone defender Michael McKernan believes they have every right to host the game in Ballybofey, amid continuing speculation that it will be switched to a larger venue.

Concerns over crowd restrictions due to the Covid19 pandemic could lead to a requirement for a significantly reduced capacity at MacCumhaill Park.

But Donegal manager Declan Bonner has insisted that his team’s right to home advantage should be upheld.

Red Hand star McKernan agrees with the Ulster champions’ stand.

“And rightly so,” he said.

“That’s for the GAA to decide, but they were drawn out for a home draw, so if it was the other way about and we were to play in Healy Park, I would be annoyed if we didn’t get home advantage. So they would have every right to be annoyed.”

McKernan accepts that a trip to Ballybofey will make a tough task all the more challenging for Tyrone, should Donegal manage to hold on to home advantage.

“If they do, it’s going to be a dogfight, but hopefully with any luck, we’ll come out on the right side of it.

“It’s a very hard first round against Donegal, and by the looks of it, it’s going to be in Ballybofey, so it’s going to be an even harder test.”

But an Ulster SFC quarter-final at Croke Park between two of gaelic football’s heavyweights would add an extra sparkle to the Championship.

“Tyrone played Armagh there in an Ulster final a few years ago. With two Ulster teams in Croke Park, it will be ding-dong. We played Monaghan there a couple of years ago, and both us and Donegal are used to Croke Park, so we know it well.”

The Coalisland Fianna clubman believes two tough National League games, both away from home, will be vital in restoring a measure of fluency into a Tyrone team that hasn’t played since February 29, when a Healy Park victory over Dublin proved to be the final action ahead of a suspension of all GAA activities.

The Red Hands sit in third place in the Division One table, with a slim chance of winning the title, but also face the threat of relegation.

They will travel to Ballybofey for an Ulster derby against Donegal on October 18, before facing Mayo at Castlebar on October 25.

“They’re not two easy games – away to Donegal and then away to Mayo.

“It’s always going to be a tough ask, even when it’s not a dogfight. We can’t take anything lightly, and it will be a good test to get us up and going again.”

McKernan has been back playing with his club over the past couple of weeks, and happy to see the domestic game go ahead before the resumption of the inter-county season.

“After that long break, it brings a bit of normality back to life. It was a long three or four months without it, and it’s great to have it back.

“It’s football and it’s usually the other way about, but it doesn’t really matter. I’d be playing football anyway summer and October and November, so it doesn’t really change anything.”

And with provincial and All-Ireland Championship football due to be played in November and December, a quite unique season will take another unusual twist.

“It will maybe feel like an early McKenna Cup, but the intensity of the Championship will kick in.”

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GAA Football