Tuesday 16 January 2018

GAA probe rumble in the tunnel

No player faces sanction despite 'unsightly' bust-up ahead of All-Ireland final

Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley and Mayo's Keith Higgins tussle even before a ball is kicked as the teams enter Croke Park on Sunday.
Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley and Mayo's Keith Higgins tussle even before a ball is kicked as the teams enter Croke Park on Sunday.

The GAA has launched an investigation after Dublin and Mayo players clashed coming out of the tunnel for the pre-match warm-up at Croke Park.

It is understood that Dublin emerged from their dressing-room under the Hogan Stand later than their allocated time, coinciding with Mayo's pitch entrance.

However, despite a number of clashes, no player from either team will face disciplinary action before the replay. The likely outcome is a warning or, at worst, a fine for one or both county boards.

The unseemly fracas led Midwest radio commentator and former Mayo footballer John Casey, who was pitchside during the incident, to say he was left "scared".

Just over a half an hour before throw-in in the All-Ireland final, it all kicked off in the narrow Croke Park tunnel, with players from both teams colliding with each other.


Teams usually come out at separate times, within two minutes of each other.

Mr Casey said "there was skelping in the tunnel . . . I am still shaking from it" when speaking live prior to kick off.

He said Mayo forward Cillian O'Connor - who scored the equalising point in the match - "upscuttled a few players".

Mayo defender Keith Higgins and Dublin star Michael Darragh-MacAuley also clashed in the scuffle.

Speaking on 2fm last night, the GAA's head of communications, Alan Milton, called the incident "unsightly".

"I can only quote from the pre-planning perspective and as John (Casey) alluded to a fair deal of planning goes into scheduling who comes out when as you would expect from every single aspect and element of the day," Mr Milton said.

"Dublin were scheduled to come out, if I am not mistaken, at 2.56 and Mayo two minutes later. But all I can say is the CCC [the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee] are investigating this and we are awaiting Conor Lane's (referee) report today."

Mr Casey had initially believed that Mayo players had waited for Dublin in the tunnel to get into their heads, but clarified this last night.

"I was misinformed initially. I was told the Mayo players were waiting in the tunnel for Dublin to get out on the pitch until I happened to get up to my stand position and I realised Dublin were meant to enter the pitch at 2.56," he said.

"Certainly there was a coming together in the tunnel area entering Croke Park," he added.

It's not the first time the two sides have clashed before a big match - in 2006, the so-called 'mill at the Hill' occurred when the Mayo team decided to warm up in front of Hill 16 and Dublin responded by doing the same.

Former Dubs star Mark Vaughan, who played in the '06 team, played down that incident and said clashes in the tunnel happen a lot more often than reported.

"There has been a few in the past, but they never really come out," he said. "In there, it's so well-timed. You get your door knocked down and if you miss your time they basically make you wait for the other team, so Dublin must have just said 'look we're going out and that's it'," he added.

On preventing another similar incident, the GAA has suggested that both teams should line up in the tunnel and make their way onto the pitch together, similarly to other sports.

"Obviously it was unsightly and I thought it was unbecoming for the event that is not just a national sporting day but a national day.

"I wonder do we need to have a discussion about two teams walking out on the field in an orderly fashion," Mr Milton said.

"I think you can do more with it personally because this is not the first time it's happened.

"In fact it happens quite a bit but I couldn't point the finger of blame on anyone until we have examined the full picture in front of us but as soon as that happens you can rest assured it will be dealt with accordingly."

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