Stewards powerless to prevent semi-final melee
STEWARDS were powerless to prevent the violent scenes that marred the All Ireland junior club football semi final, because it was too sudden and ferocious, according to the county board chairman.
Brian Allen insisted that the stadium was "adequately covered" with stewards for the match between Dromid Pearses and Derrytresk.
But the Laois County Board chairman said they could not have prepared for the ferocity of a "stampede" just before half time.
He defended the arrangements at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise on Sunday, which have come under fire from officials of Kerry club Dromid Pearses.
"We were expecting the crowd that turned up -- but not the behaviour of some who ran in when the melee broke out before half-time. There was nothing anyone could do. They were in quick over the advertising hoarding. It was like a stampede," said Mr Allen.
Mr Allen confirmed that they were up to 15 stewards present. In addition, there were a number of county board officers at the venue.
"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. But when people choose to behave the way they did on Sunday -- what can anyone do?
"I'd be very satisfied with our stewarding numbers and all of our arrangements. We never anticipated some of the incidents that took place."
A garda officer was in O'Moore Park for some of the game but a garda presence was not requested beforehand by the Laois County Board.
This is because the crowd wasn't expected to exceed 2,000, and Mr Allen said this was normal practice for a game of this size.
"Normally we wouldn't request a garda presence if we thought the crowd was going to be under 2,000.
"There were between 1,600 and 1,800 people through the turnstiles between both games played. We expected a crowd somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 but we had more than enough stewards present for the crowd that did turn up."
Portlaoise gardai have confirmed that there have been no statements of complaint so far but that inquiries were still being made.
"There was an allegation of an assault on a Dromid player after the game and an officer present spoke to that player after being alerted to it by a steward.
"But he declined to make a statement," a Portlaoise garda spokesman said.
"There is an allegation of another assault but again there is no statement of complaint. We are planning to speak to another couple of people in relation to this, however," the spokesman added.
The GAA have sought footage of the melee and are sifting through the report of Leitrim referee Francis Flynn before deciding what sanctions may be necessary.