Sunday 21 January 2018

No strict rules in place for pre-match parades

The Cavan and Armagh teams on parade after a pre-match altercation on Sunday. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
The Cavan and Armagh teams on parade after a pre-match altercation on Sunday. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

GAA parades are not governed by any strict protocols in Ulster or any other province, it has emerged.

As the GAA's Central Competition Controls Committee gathers video evidence ahead of a meeting to begin a probe into the events that marred the Ulster championship match between Armagh and Cavan in the Athletic Grounds it has been established that only an informal understanding has been in place to 'follow your own flag.'

Armagh captain Ciaran McKeever lined up behind the Cavan flag which was on the outside, prompting the Cavan team to try and physically displace them, thus starting the melee which involved all 30 players and took two minutes to bring under control.

The leader of the St Michael's Scout Band from Enniskillen, who have provided entertainment at Ulster championship matches for over 30 years, has described as "childish" the behaviour of players involved in the melee.

Bernard O'Connor said teams always lined up behind their own flags at Ulster championship matches and there had never been a problem.

"What happened, shouldn't have happened. Two teams were wrong. Armagh were wrong in the first place and Cavan were atrociously wrong in doing what they did," he said.


"There was no mature reflection there at all, very childish stuff. But that's their problem, not ours. Teams have been lining up behind their own flags for the last 30 odd years and there has never been an issue. It was the teams' problem, not ours," he said.

"We have never, ever had an issue like this before. It's absolutely not of our making at all. We just did what we normally do and teams fall in behind us. There is no protocol around any of that sort of stuff," he said.

"If you take a look at our matches, teams just line up behind their flags and march."

O'Connor said the youngest band member was 11 but nobody was hurt.

It had been suggested in the aftermath of the incident that home teams march on the outside but this has been dispelled by CCCC sources.

Meanwhile, former Armagh footballer Oisin McConville has recalled how lining up on the outside of a parade was something the team he played on always sought if they could.

"We always wanted the outside. We didn't always get it but we always wanted it. We never started rows as a result of it," he said.

"It's whoever is handed the flag in the band. That's how simple it is. I don't think there is anything sinister in it," he said.

"This sounds strange for two reasons. First, when you are on the inside you spend a lot of time standing rather than walking and the other thing is that you are getting the full momentum of the crowd on the outside. At the time it seemed important. I would look at it different now."

McConville doesn't believe the decision to stand behind the Cavan flag came from the management.

"It wasn't something that came from the changing rooms. My understanding is that it was a decision made by the players. There was nothing pre-conceived. It just happened and then you had to stand your ground.

"Armagh could have requested swapping the flags and I don't think Cavan would have had a major issue with that."

McConville acknowledged that it made for a very poor spectacle and distressed some families in the crowd.

"It didn't look great. There were a few kids around us who were genuinely upset about it. We haven't seen anything like that with parades before. The GAA sorted out players going in at half-time, with one set of players staying out. Wherever the flag is, you march behind it or else face a sanction."

McConville also said the GAA should not shirk individual penalties if players are identified as having struck during the incident.

Irish Independent

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