Friday 27 April 2018

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Idiot minority give League a bad name

Tony Gavin's article on crowd trouble at the St Patrick's Athletic-Shamrock Rovers FAI Cup semi-final replay on October 19 (Oct 24) painted an appalling vista of League of Ireland football. I have no doubt that Mr Gavin did indeed fear for his children after the unacceptable pitch invasion by Rovers' fans. However, to state that the incident was worse than English football hooliganism and to even infer a comparison with violence during the Troubles is unfair indeed.

As a Councillor who represents the Shamrock Rovers heartland of Tallaght, I am in the unfortunate position of being a lifelong St Pat's fan. Like everyone else with a passion for League of Ireland football, I've seen it all before -- both the crowd trouble and the damaging reports.

What rankles with me is that the extraordinary work done behind the scenes at both clubs -- simply to keep them going -- is jeopardised by a small group of teenage wannabes, a smaller group of grown men who should know better, and sections of the media who only realise that we have a football league in Ireland when there's a hint of trouble.

The pitch invasion by no more than 200 of 2,000 Rovers fans in the ground may have represented a natural overspill of emotion after winning the match, but the danger in which it placed players and others was unacceptable. Similarly out of order was the movement of this throng to confront the St Pat's supporters in the West Stand, the half dozen or so St Pat's fans who jumped onto the pitch to confront the Rovers' fans, and the ensuing minor skirmishes and plastic bottles being thrown back and forth.

Those who seek to portray this as 'part and parcel' of the 'rough and tumble' of the game -- as some did in the media -- are doing a great disservice to League of Ireland football.

There was real fear in Richmond Park on the night. The throwing of flares or bottles or scuffles with stewards are not welcome in Richmond Park, Tallaght Stadium or anywhere else in football.

But this wasn't the first pitch invasion in football -- and it won't be the last. And it is wrong for any newspaper to sensationalise the extent of those incidents. Some outlets have hyped up the trouble -- a great boon for the few wannabe-hoolies who revel in such coverage.

For my part, I was struck by the discipline of Pat's and Rovers fans who remained off the pitch and stayed uninvolved despite provocation by some of those on it. Football fans aren't angels -- stand beside me on the Camac Terrace on any given Friday night and you'll testify to that -- and nor should they be.

The League of Ireland, for all its faults, has not been pasteurised and retains the working-class character and edge that has been lost in the Murdoch era of overpriced top-flight football across the water.

But our ordinary, decent fans rarely get a mention and yet are tarred with the hooligan brush whenever incidents such as these are reported. We need to learn the lessons from nights like these for these ordinary fans and their clubs.

For me, the only thing more depressing than the scoreline on October 19 was seeing a grown man throwing a bottle and another storming onto a pitch swinging an umbrella. After all, Pat's, Rovers and all LOI clubs belong to the fans -- not the fools.

Cllr Dermot Looney

GAA heroes show the best of sport

In these depressing times I was enthralled and uplifted by two pages in the sports section this weekend (Oct 24). The articles by Jamesie O'Connor, Damian Lawlor, Dermot Crowe and Marie Crowe prompted me to put pen to paper.

There was achievement and justified satisfaction in the picture of Seán óg ó hAilpín lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup, triumph in the face of adversity with Evan McNamara's remarkable career in sport and tremendous sadness surrounding the Mayo county final following the tragedy in Inishbofin.

In stark contrast to press coverage of events in Manchester, these stories highlight all that is good about sport. The dignified response from Seán óg to the disappointment of his removal from the Cork hurling squad, the picture of the jersey commissioned by the late Ger Feeney in the colours of adversaries Castlebar Mitchels and Ballintubber and the long career of a man who despite significant disability once marked the captain of an All-Ireland winning team featured on the facing page.

Aspiring sport stars would do well to read these pages, highlighting the friendship, triumph and above all the dignity of sport. In addition, and finally, they stand as a potent advertisement for all that is great about the GAA.

Michael Dinneen

Sunday Independent

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