Croker set to abandon pitch presentation

GAA officials are still considering the possibility of making a pitch presentation to a victorious All-Ireland winning captain at Croke Park on Sunday but, if they do, it will be an Armagh or Mayo man receiving the cup.

It emerged yesterday that the senior captain will, as expected, be asked to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand but his minor colleague may accept the Tom Markham cup from the playing surface.

The association is set to release a statement on the matter today but the pitch invasion that took place in the wake of the hurling decider two weekends ago has aborted plans to attempt a repeat for the main game – for now.

Presenting the minor equivalent from pitchside would at least keep the matter in the public eye and it seems likely that the GAA will make another attempt to counter the traditional pitch invasion during the 2010 season.

It is a disappointing climbdown for the association which embarked on a major, though belated, PR campaign in the days prior to the hurling decider aimed at educating the public as to the dangers of mass pitch incursions.

The difficulties involved in reversing years of tradition were apparent yet again on Sunday when delirious Clare fans swarmed the playing surface after the county claimed its first All-Ireland U21 hurling title, though it was always intended that this presentation would be made from the stands.

GAA officials have already revealed that they will speak to the Government about the possibility of introducing legislation which would ban pitch incursions while stadium director Peter McKenna has even talked about the need to reintroduce fencing.

Jarlath Burns, chairman of the GAA’s presentations committee, has declared that they would not be giving up on the attempt to change that tradition but accepted that it will take longer for supporters to come around.

“We’re not trying to be killjoys here. I did it myself and I loved it,” said Burns. “There is no suggestion that the same thing wouldn’t happen again this Sunday. It happened again at the U21 hurling final and there wasn’t even anyone on the Hill.”

Whatever transpires, it is apparent that announcing the switch from the stands to the playing surface mere days before the hurling final was ambitious in the extreme but Burns is unsure if a longer educational campaign would have brought about a different result.

“There are a number of trains of thought. The GAA announced it the week before the hurling final and they gave a lot of information on their reasons behind it but I think that might have served to wind people up a bit.

“There was almost a sense of people saying ‘well, feck them’. Maybe if they had said nothing, it would have succeeded but the GAA have to be seen to be doing something to stop this. It can’t be allowed to happen unless there is an emergency in the stands.”

Burns has been central to the 125 anniversary celebrations this year which began with a controversially priced fireworks display at Croke Park after the opening NFL game between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park.

However, there will be no repeat of that visual festival, even if the pitch isn’t bedecked by thousands of celebrating fans on Sunday afternoon.

“It will be much the same as what we had for the hurling with the parade and flags at half-time. Afterwards, if we are allowed to go through with it, we will have streamers and confetti but that will be it. In the current climate we can’t be seen to be overspending. To have a big extravaganza we’d have had to add another €5 to ticket prices and that wasn’t happening.”


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