Kernan: Segregation wrong route

Crossmaglen’s three-time All-Ireland winning manager Joe Kernan has warned that separation or segregation of supporters would spell the death knell for the GAA.

As Dr Crokes clarified they weren’t looking for ticket segregation for their All-Ireland club SFC semi-final against Rangers next month, the former Armagh boss cautioned the GAA might as well bar all supporters from matches if rival fans are sectioned in different areas of stands.

The Ulster and Munster champions face off in a repeat of the 2007 All-Ireland final, which went to a replay held in Portlaoise, the same venue as their February 18 fixture.

Dr Crokes chairman Vincent Casey’s plea for supporters to be given a block of tickets so they can sit together at the game came in the wake of last Sunday’s violent scenes in O’Moore Park during and after the All-Ireland junior semi-final between fellow Kerry club Dromid Pearses and Tyrone’s Derrytresk.

The Killarney club yesterday explained they were looking for an allocation of stand tickets specifically for juvenile members and their families.

However, the game is cash only.

Kernan condemned any suggestion that GAA rival supporters need to be kept away from one another.

“The day segregation comes into the GAA is the day you shut the gates,” he said. “Crowds being able to mingle is what the Association is built on. People from England come to watch our games and they admire supporters being able to sit with one another.

“Unfortunately, there have been incidents of late — and I’m sure there have been incidents in Kerry as well as everywhere else — that are regrettable. It’s certainly not the way we have been brought up.

“But if we go down the road of segregation the GAA might as well shut up shop.”

The GAA last night welcomed Dr Crokes’ decision to issue a statement insisting they were not looking for segregation at next month’s game.

Director of games administration and player welfare Feargal McGill underlined the importance of the integration of GAA supporters at games.

“We are glad to hear Dr Crokes have clarified their position,” said McGill.

“One of the things we’re most proud of is the ability of supporters in and among all 32 counties to mix freely regardless of the importance of the game they are attending.

“Never in the history of the Association have we segregated supporters, we don’t now segregate supporters nor do we see any need to segregate supporters in the future.

“GAA fans and members are very proud of the Association and how crowds can interact and engage with one another regardless of their loyalties.

“We’re glad that Crokes have clarified that segregation is not what they were looking for. We don’t ever want to go that way.”

Although Crossmaglen secretary Gerard Rushe refused to comment on Casey’s comments, Armagh County Board secretary Paddy Óg Nugent defended Crossmaglen’s record and remarked the idea of separating the clubs’ supporters was excessive.

“Crossmaglen have an exemplary record at both county and provincial level, as far as we’re concerned. There is no issue with any of their supporters.

“I don’t want to comment on what happened last Sunday. The GAA will decide what needs to be done but it was one incident.

“That [separating supporters] is way over-the-top. If we have to go that far it would be a very sorry day for the GAA.”

Regardless of the Crokes’ clarification, the build-up towards a repeat of the 2007 All-Ireland final has been spiced. Back then, Crossmaglen won out in the replay in Portlaoise after Oisín McConville had scored a late equaliser in Croke Park.

However, the replay was tinged with controversy as John McEntee appeared to have been brandished with two yellow cards yet remained on the pitch before being substituted in the latter stages of the game.

According to McEntee, referee Eugene Murtagh explained he had incorrectly issued him with the first yellow card when the offence warranted a tick.

Given they were beaten by five points, Crokes chose not to appeal the result but allegations made their midfielder Ambrose O’Donovan had been struck on the head by a Crossmaglen supporter after he was sent off.

Crokes are also believed to have sent a letter of complaint to Croke Park outlining how two of their substitutes were “intimidated” by a Crossmaglen water-carrier and alleging Gardaí twice had to intervene to stop Crokes’ substitutes being threatened by Crossmaglen fans.

Patrick O’Sullivan, then club chairman and current Kerry chairman, is reported to have said at the time: “The club is very bitter about the stuff that went on, far more so than on the yellow card. I’ve had a lot of parents on to me expressing their disgust, and looking for action from the GAA. We had 40 kids there on Sunday, and it was a poor advert for the GAA. If this is the kind of antics that Crossmaglen are going to bring to the game, then it is little wonder Ulster football gets so much bad publicity.”

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