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Kelly: I'm amazed nobody died in 1995 riot

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England Fans in Landsdowne Road during the ill-fated friendly clash in 1995. Pic: Sportsfile

England Fans in Landsdowne Road during the ill-fated friendly clash in 1995. Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly. Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly. Pic: Sportsfile

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England Fans in Landsdowne Road during the ill-fated friendly clash in 1995. Pic: Sportsfile

ALAN Kelly remembers it all only too well. Nobody that was in Lansdowne Road all those years ago and watched the venue's blackest day unfold in a hail of wood, brick and metal could ever forget.

Playing England again after so long brings it flooding back for the man who kept goal for Ireland on the night and is still centrally involved in the senior international team.

"It brings it straight back. It's 18 years ago and you bring it back to the modern day. You have to put it in that context – modern stadia, policing and everything like that," said Kelly.

"It's not been knocked on the head, as we saw at the FA Cup semi-final and at Newcastle and various other locations but for Ireland at the time it was totally unexpected and we never experienced anything like that violence against our fans, and on home turf as well. It was a complete shock.

"What wasn't shown was the wave after wave of England fans that looked like they were going to tumble over the top of the upper tier of the West Stand. I was stood at the South Stand goal and it looked like they were going to maraud over the top.

"Frightening is not the word. It's hard to describe it as a player, but imagine from a supporter's point of view and having that debris raining down on you. How someone wasn't killed that night I don't know.

"Football was put to one side because of the violence. We travelled around the world and saw how our fans behaved and what they bring to tournaments. I'd been at the old Lansdowne Road since my Dad was involved and we were in shock at seeing that happen to our home stadium."

On the night, very real concerns invaded his mind despite his own relatively secure circumstances on the pitch. The players' families had been seated very close to the English section.

"I thought about my family being there and whether they were okay. Are the fans okay? I remember seeing a whole section of standing getting thrown over the top. You just think 'how is someone going to survive that if it hits them on the head?' Fortunately nobody was seriously, seriously hurt, which they could have been, but there were injuries.

"There was definitely a negative atmosphere in the warm-up. Even the English players were being booed by their own fans in the warm-up and they found that quite shocking I think. There was a tinderbox atmosphere where something might kick off. David Kelly got the goal, David Platt got a goal disallowed and it seemed to be a trigger.

"The West Upper Stand was where a lot of our families were sitting – next to the England fans – and if they had decided to go to their left, the stampede that could have followed would have been catastrophic. It was a night of mayhem all around."

Kelly has a vivid memory of the deep, deep anger felt by Jack Charlton who was clearly distraught on the night and could barely verbalise his disgust.

DISBELIEF

"Jack was angry. There was disappointment and disbelief. Not only that his team didn't have the chance to finish the game, but this was his country too. His memory was of what he did in 1966 and to see that violence and put it in an Ireland context meant there was a sense of embarrassment. You could see in some of the interviews he did that he was just dazed. It was a mixture of being dazed and rage, disbelief. I'd never seen him like that.

"It's gone on too long, 18 years! It would have been great to meet England at the Aviva Stadium and hopefully that will come quickly. That would put everything to bed in terms of that fixture being played at the new Lansdowne Road. When that happens, for me that will be the end of it. But this is fantastic occasion that I'm really looking forward to."

Kelly is not worried about the possibility of any friction between opposing fans for this game.

"I don't think so. I don't think we'll see the seating arrangements that we saw in 1995 at Wembley so you won't have that overlap of English and Irish fans. But our fans and the way they embrace the game, they will bring a sense of occasion. I hope on this occasion the anthems will be respected and people say 'eh, come on, it's a game of football, let's start on the right foot'. What that happens I don't know, I'm hoping and praying it does."


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