Category: Archive

Sports Desk: Ulster aims to fill Croker for decider

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The decision by Ulster to bring forward their final by seven days means that they won’t get live coverage on RTE. The national station had already made arrangements to cover the Connacht and Munster finals live on Sunday.
But no doubt about where the biggest crowd will be. The Ulster Council are hoping that their record attendance of 67,000 set for last year’s final between Armagh and Donegal at Croke Park will be bettered when Armagh and Tyrone meet at the Dublin venue on Sunday. Indeed some people are predicting a full house of 82,000 when we will see a repeat of the All-Ireland final of 2003. What a transformation we have had in Ulster football. From being the poor relations a few years back, the Ulster decider is now the top attraction in the country.
Both counties have come through what has been a typically tough campaign in Ulster and both have had the benefit of a replay. Armagh easily beat Donegal at the second attempt, and Tyrone had no pity for Cavan in their replay, winning by 21 points.
Tyrone’s Peter Canavan is back to full fitness for Mickey Harte’s team and Peter the Great is now the all-time top scorer in championship football in Ulster, having broken the record of former Down great Paddy Doherty in the semifinal replay against Cavan. There was no back door in Doherty’s heyday, so Canavan has had more games to set his record of eight goals and 185 points since 1990. Doherty scored 15 goals and 159 points between 1954 and 1971.
Armagh manager Joe Kernan has added a few new faces to his team this year, including his own son Aaron at right half back. There were suggestions earlier in the season that some of the Orchard County men had too many miles on the clock. But I think there is one last kick in this team and they should grind out a win against Tyrone.
Down south in Pairc Ui Chaoimh it’s the old firm meeting of Cork and Kerry once again in the Munster final. Prior to introduction of the open draw in Munster in 1991 the counties had met in 25 consecutive finals. But over the past 14 years they have tended to meet more often at the semifinal stage. Prior to this year’s semifinal against Limerick I thought Kerry were unbeatable. Now I’m not so sure.
Billy Morgan is keeping a very low profile in Cork and we haven’t heard a whisper from Leeside. With the back door route now available to them a defeat would not be demoralizing for the Rebels at this stage. Man for man, Kerry probably have better players and the wake up call against Limerick will surely have done them good. I give my home county a hesitant vote.
The rivalry will be just as keen in Pearse Stadium, Salthill where another old firm pairing of Galway and Mayo meet. Galway, who had a big win in the Big Apple in May, didn’t look very impressive against Leitrim in the Connacht semifinal. Midfielder Barry Cullinane looks a good find and Padraig Joyce, who came on as sub against Leitrim, should now be fully fit. Galway also have what is being labeled a young version of the terrible twins in Sean Armstrong and Micheal Meehan. But really it’s a bit premature to be comparing these two under 21s to the legendary Stockwell and Purcell.
Mayo manager John Maughan has made eight personnel changes from the team hammered by Kerry in last year’s All-Ireland final. With Billy Padden, son of the famous Willie Joe fitting in well at full forward, I think Mayo should progress. A lot will depend on the form of Ciaran McDonald. Mayo seem to channel every move through him and if McDonald is held they could be in trouble.

Legendary Blues striker and former Irish international Alfie Hale has agreed to join the Waterford United board in an advisory capacity. There have been major upheavals at Waterford in recent weeks with directors quitting and then it was revealed that the club was losing

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