GAA fans ‘stunned’ as train to Derry match to leave from Belfast

Derry GAA fans have expressed frustration after Translink announced that a special service train to the All-Ireland semi-final in Dublin will depart from Belfast.

The train also arrives into Belfast two hours after the last train to Derry departs. Translink has said it is operating a number of options and will assess requirements and demand as the week progresses

A petition has been set up by Steve Bradley, chair of campaign group Into the West, to demand that the train service be extended to Derry.

Steve said: “Interest in this fixture is high across the county and given the high price of fuel and obvious issues with traffic and parking in Dublin, everything should be done to make public transport a viable option to get people to Croke Park this weekend. So for Translink to run a special train for Derry fans that goes nowhere near the county is just baffling. Belfast’s Lanyon Place station is 30 miles from the Antrim/Derry border, 70 miles from Derry City and 52 miles from Coleraine. The train line between Derry City and Belfast has four stations in the county - including its two largest towns, Derry and Coleraine, and a station at Bellarena that is close to its third biggest town Limavady. To ignore all of that and think it is acceptable to offer a special train for Derry supporters that only starts and ends in Belfast is mind-blowing.

Derry captain Christopher McKaigue lifts the trophy after his side's victory in the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final between Derry and Donegal at St Tiernach's Park in Clones, Monaghan, which booked a place in the All-Ireland Senior Football Quarter-Finals.

“The train also won’t arrive back into Belfast until 11pm on Saturday night; two hours after the last rail service has departed for Derry city and 10 minutes after the final train has left for Coleraine.

“Translink are running a dedicated bus to Croke Park from Derry City on Saturday – but that offers just 80 seats for a city of 105,000 people. It sold out quickly, which shows that demand is high and the public transport offering for this fixture wholly inadequate. Translink have previously provided special trains from Derry city to Dublin, as they did for the 2018 visit of the Pope, so it is definitely possible.

“People across County Derry are stunned that a special train for Derry supporters goes nowhere near the county. There are obvious solutions to this absurd situation, so we’re calling on Translink to do the right think and route the service through County Derry. The days of putting everything in Belfast, even when it’s supposed to be for and about people in the north-west, must finally be brought to an end.”

SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin said: “I can understand the frustration of Derry GAA fans following Translink’s announcement that they are introducing a special service to take fans to the All-Ireland semi-final in Dublin on Saturday, given that, remarkably, it’s running from Belfast and not Derry.

Steve Bradley, Chair of Into the West.

“This match with Galway is Derry’s biggest game for nearly two decades and we should be doing everything possible to make sure this match is as accessible to fans as possible. I accept that bus services are available, but I cannot understand why this train service is running from Belfast and not Derry. It’s not just about our city, but the Derry to Belfast line passes through Co Derry which is where many of the GAA strongholds in this area are located.

“I have contacted Translink directly to ask them to consider extending this special service to Derry. We have seen additional services from Derry to Dublin added in the past for important events and I fail to see a justifiable reason why this should be any different. Saturday’s semi-final is set to be a huge occasion for this entire area, it’s our biggest game for a generation and I hope Translink will reconsider this decision to help fans get to Croke Park in the most convenient way possible to cheer on the team.”

A spokesperson for Translink said: “We are operating a number of transport options to the GAA All-Ireland football semi-final in Dublin on Saturday.

“There are coach specials leaving Foyle Street in Derry, Dungiven and Maghera to Dublin.

SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin

“A rail special is also running from Belfast to Dublin (return) on Saturday for those wishing to travel by train. Passengers can use scheduled services to connect with this train. We will assess requirements from bookings for onward connections for the return journey as the week progresses, subject to demand.”

Into the West are asking Translink to provide a train from Derry for the All-Ireland Ulster Final on Saturday, July 9.