TYRONE manager Mickey Harte has compared the manner in which the GAA prevented supporters onto the Croke Park pitch after the All-Ireland SHC final as akin to “an anti-riot squad policing a militant and potentially dangerous gathering.”
Harte, a vociferous opponent of the development, also took exception to the post-match declaration of the GAA’s Director of Communications, Lisa Clancy, that the success of their attempts had been as a result of a media campaign, dismissing it as “former Eastern Bloc-style communication masquerading as something supposedly democratic”.
The three-time All-Ireland winning boss believes the GAA are misguided in stopping fans celebrating on the pitch.
“Some of those in the higher echelons of the GAA dictated that containment was more appropriate than unbridled joy and excitement,” said Harte. “That horrible announcement – ‘all stewards and gardaí to end of match positions’ – rang out over the tannoy system even earlier than usual, with just 60 minutes played.
“Hordes of highly-visible security personnel, backed by numerous gardaí, mobilised immediately, creating an atmosphere akin to that of an anti-riot squad policing a militant and potentially dangerous gathering.”
A combination of the security presence, the “ugly” Hill 16 perspex barrier and a wire mesh around the other stands did their job and what Harte called “Operation Killjoy” was complete.
“As an exercise in well choreographed forced containment, those responsible can feel that they were successful. However, if they are really honest, they must know that what they created was alien to all that had preceded the presentation.”
The Errigal Ciarán clubman argued that if such an operation could prove successful so could controlled entry. He dismissed the argument that the policy was essential because of the risk to supporters, players and officials as “a load of rubbish”.
However, former Armagh boss Joe Keran has backed the GAA’s actions
“The traditionalist view is that denying fans access to the pitch takes away from the spectacle, colour and pageantry of All-Ireland finals. But I find it difficult to concur with this sentiment. Not only was the presentation of the Liam MacCarthy Cup a dignified ceremony, but the team’s subsequent lap of honour was acclaimed by friend and foe alike, the Kilkenny team sportingly awaiting the end of the ceremony before heading for the tunnel.
“While many believe the GAA is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut given that it is understood there is no formal record of any casualties having been confirmed during post-match pitch invasions in the past, nevertheless players themselves will be happy to take comfort among themselves.
“For the victors, there is the opportunity to bond more in celebration while the vanquished can lick their wounds unencumbered by well-meaning but intrusive followers.”