Sunday 26 February 2017

Cooney aiming to rule out provincial final invasions

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA will turn their attention to halting post-match pitch invasions at provincial finals following the success in keeping the crowd off the field at Croke Park after Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final.

The exhaustive efforts of the Croke Park management and the GAA's management committee finally paid off on Sunday, as the pitch remained a spectator-free zone following Tipperary's dramatic success.

The erection of the 2.8-metre barrier at the Hill 16 End, and the resolve of the administrators to see the policy through, gave the post-match festivities a different dimension on Sunday that many people enjoyed.

GAA president Christy Cooney said the feedback from Tipperary and Kilkenny players and officials was generally positive.

The Gardai also reported almost no congestion on Jones Road as the crowds made their exit from Croke Park in more orderly fashion.

"The fans were brilliant, and the atmosphere was tremendous," said Cooney. "We asked them to stay off the pitch and they honoured that. That is great credit to them, and I think it made the occasion of the presentations even better.

"The Kilkenny team were able to stand and watch in comfort the presentation to Tipperary, and to acknowledge in a special way the victory of Tipperary. You ask any of the players, and they enjoyed having the freedom to get around the pitch and do their lap of honour. The Kilkenny players had the freedom to get off the field with dignity having lost.

"We will be looking now at the provincial grounds and how we can manage that, to move it forward. That's a challenge that we're going to look at, for provincial finals."

There will obviously be some hankering for the way it used to be, with the crowd spilling in from all sides to congregate in front of the Hogan Stand. But the GAA are hoping now to expand on their post-match festivities now that the 'back has been broken' with the first successful 'holding of the line'.

"We said we would start in Croke Park and try to develop it there. Hopefully once people see how it works there, it will work in every other venue," said Cooney.

"You talk about tradition and culture, but tradition is built on over time. Now we can build a new tradition of fans respecting themselves and respecting the players. It wasn't just on the pitch: the Gardai had no hassle with regard to the movement of people or the movement of traffic after the match.

"The barrier helped enormously, and I think people respected that as well because we had very few people who tried to get over it. This is a process of education.

"Hopefully everything will go well for us in a similar way for the All-Ireland football final. We want the same for the camogie final and the ladies football.

"And we'll run with it next year again, and after a period of time we'll hope that eventually we'll educate people enough so that we can get rid of the barriers, reduce the number of stewards we have and people can come and enjoy the day and not invade the pitch."

GAA stadium director Peter McKenna also praised the co-operation of supporters and now feels the post-match celebrations can be developed even more.

Between video presentations, player interviews, the barrier, intense stewarding and sheer persistence, the GAA have gone to extraordinary lengths to end the tradition. McKenna doesn't feel the barrier impacted on the view of those standing on Hill 16, despite the inclement weather.

"In a way it was probably better than a brighter day, where there is small potential for glare. But the capacity of the Hill was reduced for the day because the terrace filled up from back to front the previous Sunday. Normally it fills from front to back.

"I think if you talk to the players, you'll find it was a better scenario for winners and losers," said McKenna.

Irish Independent

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