Sport Gaelic Football

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Fences a backward step in welcome fight against invasions

Keith Barr

Published 13/08/2010 | 05:00

I SEE the GPA have come out strongly in support of the GAA's campaign to end pitch invasions, which is understandable. It is a particularly nasty experience for losing players.

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I agree that invasions should be cut out, but I'm uneasy about the erection of fences; it seems to me like a backward step and I would be against it.

Fences are a thing of the past and if the GAA's campaign to convince people to stay off the field doesn't work, then they need to resort to a different 'Plan B'. Maybe simply making it an offence to enter the field might work without having to deny genuine punters a decent view of the game.

When I was a kid, the gardai didn't stand on ceremony when Dublin fans needed to be persuaded back onto Hill 16 and it would be a shame if we had to witness scenes like that again. And I don't remember too many country GAA folk complaining when this used to happen.

It was the GAA themselves who decided to keep the Hill as a terrace because of the unique atmosphere it creates and the fact they could provide supporters with cheaper tickets. And there's no doubt about it, it is a much better place without the caging.

It is simply unfair to treat fans on the terrace any differently than those elsewhere in the ground. This is particularly true for Dublin fans, many of whom have always gone to the Hill.

It's also worth pointing out that the supporters who attacked the ref after the Leinster final didn't come from Hill 16.

Still, as a former player, I couldn't agree that a tradition like invading the pitch should be preserved, given what's gone on in recent years, particularly the clips or abuse dished out to players, stewards and refs. I know these incidents are the exceptions but they're still not acceptable.

When we won the Sam in 1995 the invasions were nothing like today's so we were able to bring the cup over to the Hill and parade it on front of our fans; it was a wonderful experience.

On the Wednesday after the All-Ireland we were back in Croker for the GOAL challenge and, again, the Dublin fans stayed on the Hill and we were able to salute them as a team.

And as part of that culture change that needs to happen, I believe players should get their medals on the day, including losers medals for the defeated squad. That might help to bring a ceremonial end to the championship and give fans from both sides something to watch from the stands or the terrace.

I believe most fans don't really want to go on the pitch, and it has just become a habit. The GAA need to be conscious of this and be patient in their campaign to convince them not to do so.

Sticking up a nine-foot fence is a knee-jerk reaction and won't help that process.

Irish Independent

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