Ulster GAA warn of no crowds if there are more pitch invasions

First Minister Arlene Foster has raised "deep concerns" about the Tyrone SFC final pitch invasion
Ulster GAA warn of no crowds if there are more pitch invasions

Some of the scenes at Healy Park last night as fans joined Dungannon Thomas Clarkes players in celebrating their dramatic penalty shoot-out win on the pitch. Picture: INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

The Ulster Council has warned games will go behind closed doors if there are more pitch invasions like that which followed yesterday’s Tyrone SFC final.

Dungannon Clarkes claimed a first senior title in 64 years following a penalty shoot-out which sparked jubilant scenes, which were raised as a concern by First Minister Arlene Foster earlier today. Foster also asked Ulster GAA to address this.

In a statement this afternoon, Ulster GAA called on supporters to avoid encroaching pitches in county finals over the coming weeks: “In light of post-match scenes following yesterday’s Tyrone Senior Football Championship final, Ulster GAA is strongly reiterating the GAA’s message that no spectators should enter the field of playing following games.

“The GAA has put in place protocols surrounding all aspects of the playing of games and, for the greater part, they have been universally observed. Over the weekend there were adult county finals in six of our nine counties and evidence from across the province is that these protocols were adhered to, with spectators remaining in the stand during post-match presentations.

“However, the on-pitch celebration scenes following the Tyrone County final in Omagh not only breached GAA protocols but, and much more significantly, public health guidelines. Ulster GAA fully realises that this was a moment of great joy for the Dungannon Clarkes Club in winning their first County title since 1956 and congratulations to them on this success.”

Ulster GAA accepted there were some mitigating factors and highlighted how the organisation had been leading the way in living safely with the pandemic. “The dramatic nature of the conclusion of the game probably added to the exuberance but we are living in a pandemic and the post-match scenes did not portray the Association in a positive light.

“The GAA has led the way in its response to this pandemic at community level and has safely returned players and spectators to our games in a safe and responsible way. Ulster GAA has worked closely with our Counties co-operating with Governments and public health agencies adhering to the restrictions and conveying wider public health messages to our members.

“The GAA has acted in a positive manner since the outbreak of the pandemic, with attendances at games strictly regulated. 

Our supporters have responded positively and responsibly but last night’s scenes undoubtedly placed GAA members and their local community at greater risk to Covid-19. It also potentially undermines the GAA case, and indeed the case for wider sport, to be permitted to have increased numbers attend our games.

“With more county finals due in the coming weeks, Ulster GAA is again appealing to all our units to behave responsibly. The scenes of last night cannot be repeated or we will risk going back to a position where all games will be played behind closed doors.”

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