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Gardai make arrests as Linfield and Shelbourne fans trade taunts

SHANE HICKEY GARDAI made a number of arrests last night after Shelbourne and Linfield fans clashed and traded sectarian taunts in the run-up to the Setanta Cup Final.

At least one Linfield fan suffered injuries to his face after he was glassed in a local pub, and the Garda riot squad arrested another man after an on-street fight broke out shortly before the game at Tolka Park, Dublin, involving supporters from both sides.

Tensions were high between the two groups with sectarian jibes being passed between supporters. Gardai had to separate two groups of fans after scuffles broke out.

One man was arrested outside the Millmount House pub in Drumcondra after a clash, with the riot squad having to draw their batons.

A massive Garda operation was launched ahead of the match with the roads around Tolka Park blocked off and fans with flags and Celtic jerseys refused entry.

A number of Linfield fans chanted "We are the Billyboys" at Shelbourne supporters, while there was at least one incident of violence against a northern fan.

John Montgomery, 43, from the Rathcoole Estate in Belfast, suffered cuts to his face after being glassed during a scuffle in Fagan's Bar in Drumcondra.

He said a group had rushed him and his friends, with one man shouting: "We are the real IRA, you will never take Northern Ireland."

Superintendent Ray Barry, of Store Street Garda Station, said there had been three arrests before the match and that the Garda operation had worked well with few incidents of trouble.

Around 1,300 Linfield fans travelled to watch the game with strict controls on tickets put in place following a fierce riot between the team's supporters and Glentoran fans during an Irish League showdown at the Oval in Belfastin April.

There was strict segregation of fans during the game, with Linfield supporters shepherded into the Riverside Stand at the ground.

A number of photographers were threatened by the Linfield fans prior to the football match.

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There were fears of more violent confrontations between the two sets of supporters because a large number of them had been watching the FA Cup Final in pubs around the area prior to the kick-off at 7.30pm last night.

CCTV both inside and outside the ground was used by officers while the Garda Football Intelligence Unit was also in operation in the run-up to the game.

It is the first year the Setanta Cup has been played with northern and southern teams vying for the top prize of ?150,000. Linfield won the match 2-0.

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