Night of shame for Irish football
IRISH football was in the dock today after frightening scenes of crowd trouble at an FAI Cup match.
Rival fans clashed following Shamrock Rovers' 1-0 win over St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park in Inchicore last night.
Gardai are now investigating the violence, which was strongly condemned by both sides.
One of the ringleaders, a Rovers supporter, led a charge by over a dozen youths towards the St Pat's section of the stadium.
Hooded thugs goaded their rivals as League of Ireland football returned to the bad old days.
It ended up with supporters fighting each other on the pitch.
Punches were flying as the vast majority of fans, who were well-behaved, looked on in horror.
A number of children were seen leaving the ground in tears after witnessing the distressing scenes.
Senior Pats' official Philip Nolan promised the club would act swiftly against any trouble-makers who can be identified.
"We are disappointed. Both clubs and the gardai had planning in place but people set out for trouble," he said.
"I just thank God there were no serious injuries and that nobody got hurt in a way that might affect them coming back here or going to work today, or going to school today as we had a lot of kids in the ground in a crowd of over 4,000. We will sit down today with the gardai and have a look at our security, look at the CCTV. We'll sit down and do a full report. We have still shots of people and we will take action, we will not put up with that, we work too hard here to do that."
Last night's semi-final replay was edged by Rovers, handing them their first FAI Cup final appearance since 2002.
But their celebrations had to be tempered following the shameful scenes after the final whistle. It was yet another body blow for League of Ireland football, which has suffered a lot of setbacks in the last few years. Both clubs will face fines from the FAI over the crowd trouble.
Questions will also be asked about the extent of crowd control and the stewarding as well as gardai's plan of action for the game. In particular, attention will focus on how so many objects, which were used as missiles, got past security checks.
The Rovers fan that led the charge was able to get into the game with an umbrella, which can be used as a weapon.
St Pats manager Pete Mahon admitted he was upset by last night's events. "Unfortunately the incidents after the final whistle will dominate the headlines. It's a shame. I don't know what really happened but I heard that our crowd reacted and if that's the case it's a shame for Shamrock Rovers as it spoiled a good night here," Mr Mahon said.
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