Tuesday 23 January 2018

Nicky Byrne: I was caught up in Lansdowne riot and 'there was such hatred'

Nicky Byrne pictured during Trials in The AUL Complex Clonshaugh for RTE new Show 'Footballs Next Star'
Nicky Byrne pictured during Trials in The AUL Complex Clonshaugh for RTE new Show 'Footballs Next Star'
Nicky Byrne on his new gameshow
Nicky Byrne, Jenny Greene's co-host
15 February 1995; Rioting England fans in the Upper West Stand which forced the abandonment of the game. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; An England fan is restrained by Gardai after rioting in the West Stand forced the abandonment of the game. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Elaine McCahill

RTE presenter Nicky Byrne has recalled how he got caught up in the football riot at Landsdowne Road 20 years ago.

The former Westlife singer (36) revealed the riots broke out on the day he was attending his first international match on his own – a friendly game between Ireland and England.

15 February 1995; Rioting England fans in the Upper West Stand which forced the abandonment of the game. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; Rioting England fans in the Upper West Stand which forced the abandonment of the game. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; An England fan is restrained by Gardai after rioting in the West Stand forced the abandonment of the game. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; Fans attempt to leave the ground after rioting in the Upper West Stand forced the match to be abandoned. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; Republic of Ireland fans tear down an England flag after rioting in the Upper West Stand forced the match to be abandoned. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; The Republic of Ireland team celebrate after their first goal against England, scored by David Kelly. The match was subsequently abandoned after rioting broke out the the Upper West Stand. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; England supporters clash with Gardai in the West Stand where rioting broke out and forced the match to be abandoned. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; Terry Phelan, right, and Steve Staunton, left, celebrate with David Kelly, after he scored the Republic of Ireland's first goal against England. The match was subsequently abandoned after rioting broke out the the Upper West Stand. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; England supporters clash with Gardai in the West Stand where rioting broke out and forced the match to be abandoned. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; An empty Lansdowne Road after rioting broke out in the Upper West Stand and forced the match to be abandoned. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
15 February 1995; England supporters in the Upper West Stand where rioting broke out and forced the match to be abandoned. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

“I had always gone with my dad to see Ireland play and here I was out for the first time on my own and I walked into this,” he remembered.

“The thing I remember straight away going into Landsdowne road that night was the atmosphere.

Read more here: Lansdowne Riots 20 years on: Here are 24 pictures from that night 

“There was such hatred. You couldn’t hear the national anthems of either England or Ireland, such was the booing going on.

Nicky Byrne pictured during Trials in The AUL Complex Clonshaugh for RTE new Show 'Footballs Next Star'
Nicky Byrne pictured during Trials in The AUL Complex Clonshaugh for RTE new Show 'Footballs Next Star'
Nicky Byrne, Jenny Greene's co-host
Presenter Nicky Byrne

“I was only a kid then, but I knew something was going to kick off,” he added.

Luckily, Nicky was with his friends in the south terrace which was away from the English hooligans who were in the upper West Stand.

However, he says he can still remember “all hell breaking loose” when Ireland scored after 20 minutes.

“The Irish fans celebrated that goal more than any goal at any Ireland match ever,” he recalled. 

“But it was like an explosion because it drove the English fans crazy, and immediately they started ripping up their seats. You were looking at four or five thousand English fans and wondering what if they come this way.”

 

The 2FM presenter also remembers some Irish fans were eager to engage their English counterparts in a fight.

“There were Irish fans going out on the pitch who wanted a fight. I was in the middle of this wondering ‘where is this all going to stop?’”

The riots resulted in the match having to be called off and the Million Euro Challenge presenter remembers feeling worried for gardai who had been called in to deal with the hooligans.

“I remember walking out the turnstiles and seeing 10 garda vans and these guards looking quite scared putting their helmets and gloves on,” he said.

“Someone in the crowd shouted ‘go on lads, give it to them’ but they didn’t know what to expect.”

friendly

Nicky, who was just 16 at the time, then had to make his way to Ringsend to find a telephone box so that he could call his parents to let them know he was safe.

No one was killed at the riot but 20 people were seriously injured.

England and Ireland did not meet again until a friendly game on May 29, 2013 which took place at Wembley Stadium in London and finished in a 1-1 draw.

Herald

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport