GPA backs GAA 'pitch' battle
THE Gaelic Players' Association (GPA) has reiterated its support for the GAA in the attempt to maintain Croke Park as a supporter-free zone, starting with next Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final, WRITES MARTIN BREHENY.
A major drive, including fencing off Hill 16 and beefing up security to prevent invasions, is being undertaken as the GAA aim to begin a new era where supporters don't enter the pitch.
Winning the support of the GPA was a central plank in a policy which faces its first major test on Sunday. The GPA publicly backed the move a year ago and re-committed themselves in a statement issued yesterday.
"While we understand that this represents a break with tradition, the GPA is happy to support the initiative as it is not acceptable that players should have to endure verbal abuse or physical interference after an intense championship game.
"We would also appeal to fans to consider losing players, particularly after this year's All-Ireland finals. The physical and emotional drain on players is immense. This is not a snub to patrons who support the games. Inter-county GAA players have enormous respect for their supporters."
The statement also points out that while attacks on players by pitch invaders may be isolated, they cannot be tolerated.
Meath midfielder Mark Ward, who was struck by a member of the public after this year's Leinster football final, raised the issue of players' reaction to such interference.
"No player makes a big deal about these things, but what if I'd reacted? What if a player strikes a supporter? What will happen then?" he asked.