herald

Monday 5 December 2016

'The game had not been on very long when I saw a piece of wood landing on the pitch'

England supporters clash with Gardai in the West Stand where rioting broke out and forced the match to be abandoned
England supporters clash with Gardai in the West Stand where rioting broke out and forced the match to be abandoned

Tension filled the air before the start of the matchwhen I arrived to take photographs of the game.

I was a 21-year-old cadet photographer for the Evening Herald and I was hoping to get some good pictures around the Irish goal. But I never imagined I would witness such an onslaught of violence that erupted from the hooligans among the English fans.

There was talk all day that there could be trouble and I remember seeing a group of gardai in riot gear under one of the stands as I walked onto the pitch.

The tension worsened as the match started and I remember the constant chanting of rival fans. English hooligans were roaring obscenities with taunts of "f***ing Irish."

The game had not been on very long when, all of a sudden, I saw a piece of wood landing on the pitch.

I could see the gardai gathering on the sideline and I ran towards them to take photos. They shouted at me: "Get back, get back."

Then came this sudden downpour of wooden debris on the pitch. They were breaking up the wooden seats in the stand and a shower of broken planks were landing on the pitch.

The regular gardai took out their truncheons and began wading into the crowd to arrest troublemakers. All hell was breaking loose and all the players left the pitch.

A photographer from the Star, Neil Fraser, was behind me and he got hit on the head by a missile and was knocked unconscious.

He was carried by photographers to one of the goal mouths and ambulance men took him off to hospital.

I was feeling a lot of fear, but my instinct was to go into the action.

The garda riot squad went to the upper deck of the stand where a lot the hooligans were breaking up the seats.

The abiding image from that horrible night is of missiles 'carpet bombing' the whole area around the stand. I could hear some of them whizzing past my ears.

There was a continuous stream of people, who were either wounded or under arrest, being taken out of the crowd by gardai. It was chaos.

Then, within a few minutes, the stadium was completely emptied of people.

My main concern was how to get my black and white film back to the offices of Independent Newspapers on Middle Abbey Street and I was fearful that there may have been trouble on the streets.

I'll never forget that night and I hope to never see the like of it again.

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