Thursday 20 June 2019

'Lower than anything I've ever had on a football field. It was horrific'- Niall Quinn on 'trick or treat' chant in Windsor Park

That night in November: Post-match tension in Windsor Park for World Cup game in 1993.
That night in November: Post-match tension in Windsor Park for World Cup game in 1993.
Twenty-five years ago this week: Alan McLoughlin celebrates after his equalising goal against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in 1993 booked Ireland’s ticket to the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Photo: Getty Images

John Morley

Former Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn's toughest memory in sport was when the Northern Ireland crowd chanted 'trick or treat' in reference to the Greysteel massacre during the 1993 World Cup qualifier between the sides.

Quinn was horrified when he heard a faction of the Northern Ireland crowd chanting 'trick or treat', calling it 'lower than anything' he has experienced playing football.

"The bit that really got to me while I was playing was when they started singing 'trick or treat' because that's what the poor people in the pub were told before the shooters shot them.

"For the crowd to start singing that in unison, that night, that was as low a moment as I've ever had, in fact way lower than anything I've ever had on a football field. That was just horrific," said Quinn on RTE's documentary 'Division: The split in Irish soccer.'

Eight innocent people were killed in the shooting at a Halloween party in a pub in Greysteel just outside Derry, with the shooters shouting 'trick or treat' before shooting on the crowded pub. The attack was carried out by a loyalist hit squad in reprisal for the Shankill road bombing a week earlier.

This match took place at he height of the Troubles with the Republic needing a win to book a place in the World Cup 1994. The turbulent, sectarian atmosphere was evident when the ROI team arrived at Windsor Park. Across the road a man in a mask with a UVF flag gave children with sticks firing orders towards the team bus.

"Going to the game was when it got really serious. The bit I'll never forget, there was this, sort of, grassy mound. And, these kids were all standing up, with sticks, and they would all go like that (aiming the sticks like a rifle), straight at our window and pull. And then they'd all go down on their knees and these other kids came up from behind. And did the same thing," said Quinn.

"And this man, with a mask on his face and a big UVF flag was ordering them. And I just looked at it and that was when I went, Jesus Christ, this is just - this has gone somewhere that my brain can't imagine," he added.

In a tense match Northern Ireland drew first blood with a wonder goal from Jimmy Quinn. Niall Quinn reflected on the conduct Northern manager Billy Bingham, who he described as 'leading the choir' for the Ireland 'trick or treat' chants.

"Billy poured a load of petrol on the flames, looking for the edge I suppose. He was happy, he was getting the crowd to sing all those terrible songs. Turning around, as if leading the choir," added Quinn.

Former Ireland boss Brian Kerr was also disappointed by Bingham's actions, adding that they were not appropriate for a man with his position in a sporting association.

"It was all in all in. Do what you have to do to get a result from the match. But it wasn't nice. It wasn't very subtle and I think that it wouldn't be the sort of behaviour that any association would like their manager to partake in nowadays," said Kerr.

Quinn noted that after the game the late Al McDonald produced one of the best pieces of sportsmanship he had ever experienced, when he came into the Republic's dressing room to congratulate them and wish them luck in their World Cup campaign.

"Still to this day it puts goosebumps and hairs to the back of my neck. To think in the middle of all that, a man who was reared on the protestant side of all the Troubles that took place. For him to have the courage to come in because that would've gotten out, there's no doubt that that would have done that.

"To show the courage to come in, and to wish us well, and to say that we're representing the country of Ireland there and that we'll be shouting for you, like I'm sure you guys shouted for Northern Ireland in '82 and '86.

"They're the moments you look back on in your career and say, wow."

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