GAA baulk at talk of keeping fans apart
Crowd separation or segregation is not a road the GAA feel the need to travel down now or any time in the future, Croke Park's head of games administration Fergal McGill confirmed yesterday.
As Dr Crokes explained the background to the comments of their chairman Vincent Casey -- who sought an exclusive seating arrangement for supporters of their club in their All-Ireland club SFC semi-final against Crossmaglen Rangers in Portlaoise in three weeks' time -- McGill said any form of segregation was "not a part of GAA culture."
A Crokes statement issued yesterday described the interpretation of Casey's reported comments as "misinformation" and stated that they were merely looking for a specified area to take the younger supporters from the club.
They are adamant that the word 'segregation' was not what their chairman was hitting at.
"What the club has requested is an allotment of tickets in a particular section of the stand where juvenile members and their families can sit together, as many families had requested this after our Munster final win," the statement said.
Dr Crokes said they had brought large groups of juvenile supporters to most of their games to date and wanted to continue doing that.
"We believe that there will be a large attendance in Portlaoise and hence our reason for looking for an area where these can be accommodated together.
"All other interpretations of the club's requests are a misinterpretation of the facts, and the club is in no way calling for segregation of supporters," Dr Crokes said.
However, the club did admit that their request also included a call for there to be "adequate stewarding, in particular on the area in front of where the subs."
Crossmaglen secretary Gerard Rushe said his club would be making no official comment on any inference that may have been drawn from Casey's comments.
On Newstalk radio their PRO Tom Mackay said he didn't envisage any problems on the day and underlined the respect that Crossmaglen had for the Kerry champions.
In his original comments Casey had recalled the 2007 All-Ireland club final replay in Portlaoise between the teams when he claimed that "one of our players was hit after being sent off."
"We feel strongly that this needs to be addressed, because five years on from our experience there, this happened on Sunday," he said.
Ambrose O'Donovan was the player who was alleged to have been struck by a female supporter.
Croke Park has no intention of making any specific seating arrangements in Portlaoise or at any GAA ground in the future.
"It goes against everything that the GAA has represented for the last 127 years. It is not part of GAA culture and it never has been part of GAA culture or history where rival supporters have always mixed easily," said McGill.
"There is no question of separation. We've never had to do it before and, hopefully, we never will have to either."
McGill does not envisage any additional safety issues for supporters other than those that exist at every match.
"We'd have every confidence that no extra measures will be required. There will be no such policy for this or any other game in the near future," he said.
O'Moore Park in Portlaoise is sufficiently big enough for both sets of supporters to keep their distance, if that is what Dr Crokes desire.
Casey's original comments, while clarified by the club statement, have brought a new focus on the February 18 clash between the Munster and current All-Ireland champions.
Laois chairman Brian Allen has already defended the stewarding arrangements in O'Moore Park for last Sunday's tumultuous Derrytresk/Dromid Pearses All-Ireland club JFC semi-final which is now the subject of a major Central Competition Controls Committee investigation. Allen said the ground was "adequately" catered for by stewards for the crowd of just under 1,800.
He said stewards were powerless to prevent the "stampede" as Derrytresk substitutes climbed the advertising hoarding to inflame a developing altercation on the sideline.
"We have plenty of experience of holding big games in Portlaoise. Stewards are there to ensure safety for those attending and to clear passages for players when they are leaving the field," said Allen.
"But when people choose to behave the way they did on Sunday, what can anyone do?"
The charge by these substitutes is likely to bring a fresh focus on the penalties for those who make unauthorised encroachments on to the field of play.