ULSTER GAA will lose out on more than €250,000 in revenue from this week’s Championship meeting between Donegal and Tyrone.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the eagerly awaited quarter-final game will be played behind closed doors at MacCumhaill Park on Sunday afternoon, throw-in 1.30pm.
Between them the two Ulster heavyweights have won nine of the last 11 provincial titles and a crowd in excess of 15,000 would have been expected in Ballybofey this weekend.
Instead, less than 150 people will be inside the venue.
Sunday’s game was originally scheduled to take place back in May but that was called off due to Covid-19 restrictions.
While the Ulster GAA will lose out on gate receipts, it also comes as a huge cost to local businesses. Ulster Championship matches are traditionally among the busiest days of the year with thousands of supporters converging on the Twin Towns.
Included in their number would be piper Christy Murray. Kitted out in a uniform in Donegal colours, the Raphoe man has been whipping supporters up into a frenzy before games for more than twenty years.
“It’s a bit gut wrenching that I will have to watch the game from home but the rules are the rules. I haven’t missed a competitive Donegal game since the 1990s while I’ve had the pipes with me since 1999 or 2000.
“I particularly enjoy the atmosphere that comes with all the big games. Some of the younger supporters probably think I’m part of the Donegal match day set-up at this stage,” he laughed.
On match days Christy arrives at the venue early and go around some of the pubs to get the fans stirred up. An hour before the game he’ll go around the perimeter of the pitch and with about a half an hour to go he’ll make his way into the stands and walk up and down the concourse before taking his seat.
“If the numbers come down I might yet get to see Donegal play before the year is out. More importantly though I hope the virus doesn’t start to affect the players too much and that we still get a good Championship.” he said.
Closer to home, Christy Murray became a grand father for the first time on Tuesday morning.
“Sinead and her husband Liam had a baby boy William Christopher Crawford yesterday and I’m a very proud man. Who knows, I might have to swap the pipes for a baby bottle on Sunday,” he laughed.
Throughout lockdown, Christy Murray was often seen playing at local funerals and family functions.
“I put a wee message out there at the time to say that I was available. I ended up playing at 57 outings in sixty days. If it helps to lift somebody’s spirits then it makes it all worthwhile,” he said.