The GAA’s Ulster Council has been urged to rethink Derry’s Championship clash with Down amid fears of traffic chaos.
The match is to take place on June 2 - the same day as the Walled city marathon which will see Foyle Road, a section of Lonemoor Road and the lower deck of the Craigavon Bridge closed as around 1,200 runners take to the streets. Upwards of 15,000 spectators are expected to attend the Celtic Park clash, prompting fears that many fans will be caught up in traffic gridlock in the city.
A spokesman for the Ulster Council told the Journal that it was “aware” of the matter and that a final decision will be made on January 17 at a meeting of the Competitions Control Committee. He said that a venue change would not a be possibility but that a date or time change was being considered to avoid the clash. However, the TV schedule has already been agreed and the decision may depend on that.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who plans to run the marathon, has called on the Ulster Council to address the concerns. “The clash with the Championship match is unfortunate as the huge additional volume of traffic that it will generate is sure to create headaches for runners, marshals, police and Roads Service.
“It will also be difficult for matchgoers to find parking spaces.
“These are concerns I will be raising with the Ulster Council.
“I would like to think that common sense can prevail and the Derry v Down match can be played on a different date or even the throw-in be put back by a couple of hours.”
Meanwhile, the marathon organisers have reopened the event for new entries having filled the initial limit of 1,000 places.
Race Director Noel McMonagle said: “It’s great news for any runners out there who thought the gate was firmly shut. Despite reaching the original entry target last week, the significant ongoing demand has persuaded the event organisers to offer a small number of additional places for the eagerly anticipated City of Culture event.”
Limited additional entries will now be accepted on a first come first served basis until Friday at 4pm via www.athleticsni.org or at Foyle Hospice, 61 Culmore Road.