meath jersey crestToday was to be a historic day. Being from Meath I was hoping that the nine year Leinster GAA football title drought would come to an end. This morning I was buzzing and couldn’t wait for match time. Meath, my home county would take on Louth, our neighbours, who hadn’t won an All Ireland title since 1957.

The game started, Louth drew first blood, after missing an open goal.. David Villa would have been extremely disappointed with himself.  Half time came though and despite Meath missing silly chances they were 3 points up.

Second half, Meath seemed to be on the ropes, Louth rallying better. A loss to Louth, being honest, is not something I would want to endure. I’d rather lose to arch rivals Dublin. Meath have always had a fighting spirit, you can never rule them out of anything and with ten minutes to go, the game was 10 points all.

Leinster Trophy - Worth fighting for?Louth got a goal through JP Rooney but the Meath fans urges pushed the players on, giving everything in the last few minutes. Some completely stupid time wasting by kicking the ball away and then a late tackle saw Colm Judge sent off for Louth. With three minutes additional time to be played, Meath threw everything at the ‘wee’ county. A high ball in towards the goal mouth was caught by Joe Sheridan who turned and shot, the ball somehow was kept out by Louth. It dropped to Sheridan again who tripped over the Louth Number 3, Dessie Finnegan, while also being rolled over by goalkeeper Neil Gallagher and somehow the ball ended up in the back of the net. The goal was awarded and Meath won the Leinster Senior Football title 2010.

Whatever the result of the game, so be it. If Meath had to lose, we could have done nothing about it. If Louth had to take their open chances, they would have been celebrating. What happened next though, took our game and stamped all over everything it has ever stood for.

Seconds later, after the final whistle, the referee, Martin Sludden from Tyrone was ‘manhandled’ firstly by Louth players and then by Louth Supporters. if you watch the video, you will see a guy in a Louth jersey Number 13, wearing jeans, trying to separate Louth players and keep them away from the ref. Louth ‘supporters’ surround the ref trying to jostle and elbow him in the back. No matter what the referee’s decision, this was appalling. A volunteer steward was hit in the head by a flying bottle and a number of Meath fans got thumps and assaulted by Louth fans.

If this happened on the street the ‘accused’ would be charged with Grievous Bodily Harm. Their faces have been shown over and over again tonight on National TV. I, for one, hope that, they are named and banned from all GAA games and events. I hope that Mr Sludden does press charges. They have brought shame on themselves and the game.

As the GAA is an amateur organisation, the stewards are there because they like doing it. Stewards get a free roll and maybe a match programme if there’s one over. The pictures of seeing one of these volunteers lying on the ground having being hit by a bottle is, well, sad.

The GAA, when they renovated Croke Park, took down the old barbed chicken wire pens that us fans used to frequent. Instead, along with what FIFA do, access is available to the pitch area. The main reason for this is for crowd control and pushing, if any emergency incidents take place, they can be dealt with efficiently. No one wants another Hillsborough. Today, Louth fans rushed the pitch, attacking officials and umpires. Yes, Meath fans later went to the pitch area, this was solely for the presentation of the Leinster trophy.

smiley happy tearsLooking at photographs of my Godson today and the tears in his little red eyes, show how much this games means to us as a nation. I had thought today of writing a blog post about how the GAA brings communities together and while I’m Irish, the one true thing that that anchors my Irish roots is Meath football. It’s probably the one thing I can define as Irish about myself. The grassroots followers in local clubs and communities who never win anything, still get involved. It brings people together, developing community bonds and in a lot of cases, is the only means of outlet for many. There are so many GAA clubs around the world from San Francisco to Sydney, New York to London, these have become a home from home for many Irish emigrants.

Since the game earlier today, there have been calls for replays. Hey, the French didn’t replay the Irish soccer game. It’s nothing to do with either the Meath or the Louth players. They both went out there giving it their all. The referee had to make a decision one way or another about the ‘goal’. No one has the right to infringe on another being whether it be in daily life or in recreation. Take the decision on the chin and get on with it. Louth isn’t knocked out of the competition, they still have the opportunity to play through the ‘back door’ in this years championship. If Meath couldn’t take a loss, the press would have a field day. Louth – Take it on the chin and get on with it.

This whole episode became way more than a game the moment that the referee was assaulted. It became a violent act. There is nothing here for Meath to celebrate.

Mark Ward of Meath is struck by a Louth supporter at the end of the Leinster SFC final game at Croke Park - INPHO You know what’s sadder? I just found out that the number 13 guy in the Louth jersey who was trying to get the Louth players away from the ref assaulted Mark Ward. Again, another volunteer. If it happened on the street they’d be locked up. I’ve also heard stories tonight of a Meath legend being assaulted in the stands, a friend’s brother getting thumped because he was a Meath fan and Meath flags being burned on the street in Drogheda, Co Louth.

Louth fans, ok, I’ll rephrase. If you are a Louth ‘fan’ who took part in this disturbing loutish behaviour, you disgust me. You’ve brought the name not only of Louth GAA but the whole game into disrepute. I hope each and every last one of you is named and shamed.

If there is a decision made tomorrow at the Meath County Board Meeting for a replay, you’ll be in for a hell of a match. Louth, you have taken this beyond being a game.

I went to Croke Park today hoping that it would be memorable. Well, I got what I asked for.

12 Responses

  1. Gerard Rafferty

    I notice earlier in this page you rightly pointed out that you would not tolerate any verbal abuse on your site and for these people to grow up but yet you allowed the remarks from “UNKNOWN” appear in which they try to articulate that all Louth fans are fans because of the actions of a few Louth supporters at the game “no replay should be given because we dont want Fans like Louth in Croke Park again”. When you say verbal abuse will not be tolerated do you just mean abuse towards Meath people!

  2. nessy

    Thanks for all your reactions guys, thanks for reading my blog.

    To be honest I think a number of YOU are missing the point. As you can see from other blog posts i’m into techie stuff, film and music mainly but what I witnessed yesterday angered me so much that I had to write about it.

    The ref cocked up. Meath are under no obligation to do offer anything but that’s besides the point. As I have said before, it doesn’t matter what county those supporters were from yesterday. At this stage I really don’t care what the outcome of the actual game was.

    The reason I wrote this is because if you, reading this or anyone else for that manner, thinks a game is more important than the safety of volunteers well I’ll be darned! Its time for me to stop watching sports.

    Sports: its a game and the outcome of any game should not determine whether someone spends a night in hospital with concussion or feels unsafe in a volunteer capacity.

    Throwing punches solves nothing. Here’s a few things that happened yesterday

    – Personal safety of the referee jeopardised

    – Volunteer Croke Park steward hit by a flying bottle

    – My friend’s kid brother thumped for wearing a Meath jersey

    – Legend Sean Boylan jostled in the stand in Croke Park

    Do you think these are ok and alright to happen? If so you must be living on a different planet.

    NO game is worth that. I’m not missing the point, I just appreciate and respect other people.

  3. Unknown

    I would just like to say I am a Meath supporter but I think it definetly was unfair on Louth yesterday BUT the way them Louth FANS reacted after the match was totally discusting they should be ashamed of themselves I dont think Croke Park has saw such discust I doubt the Louth supporters would like if we went up to their pitch and start boo-ing their players when taking frees then hitting up murder after the match !! God forbid a young child getting hurt at that match yesterday !! SHAMEFUL the Louth supporters !!! No replay should be given because we dont want Fans like Louth in Croke Park again

  4. Susan

    I think you are missing the point here, we are in no doubt there was no call for the reaction of some supporters and what happened to the officials was totally uncalled for, but the main point is that it wasn’t a goal and by saying the behaviour of a few will have a longer lasting impact than the scoreline is taking away from the injustice of what happened in Croke Park. Meath should not have won and that’s the end of it!!!

    Our Association our great association that pride themselves on reaching into every corner of the land and having its roots in every Irish parish need to do something about what happened. What was to be a proud day for Louth ended in a way that no Louth GAA supporter would ever have dreamed of or believed. A square ball and a player in the nets throwing a ball to win begs belief, that any official could have and did allow such a tactic, goes beyond acceptability.

    Young and old members of Louth went to a Leinster Final, their first in over 50 ears and they seen for their own eyes an official of the GAA making a decision without properly consulting with the linesmen. The very fact that they did not signal a goal should have been enough for him to see there was an issue.

    Today the GAA do not receive unselfish support from their voluntary workers willingly making sacrifices to promote the ideals of the GAA. Today they have voluntary workers who have lost heart and wonder if they can continue to make sacrifices or promote the ideals of the Association. All the work of the GAA over the last 126 years in promoting Gaelic Sport and its activities in Ireland and across the waters has been hindered. I have lost belief in our Association, which is a very sad time for any Gaelic supporter Louth or otherwise.

    The Leinster Council need to make a decision about this and not leave it up to a referee who couldn’t make a call on a goal that wasn’t a goal. We couldn’t accept the referee’s report when we know his decision was flawed!!


  5. nessy

    Thank you for your comment Gerard,

    Yes I understand the Louth frustration and yes, Louth were the better team. The ref made a mistake, we will know tonight probably what his report says.

    To be perfectly honest, if there is a replay so be it, if the referee changes his mind and says Louth won so be it. Frankly, he didn’t have a great game anyway. I do agree with you it should be the Leinster Council who make a decision on this.

    It may have been a bad decision by the referee but in my opinion the behaviour of a few will have a longer lasting impact than the scoreline.


  6. Gerard Rafferty

    Hi Nessy

    Having read your article and your reply to Adrian I as a Louth man from Drogheda would like to make a couple of points. You’re absolutely right when you say the behaviour by a very small percentage of Louth fans was loutish and totally unacceptable however you have to try and put yourself in the shoes of the Louth fans. Losing the game is not an issue. I am 42 years of age and have followed my county since I was knee high to a grasshopper, we’re well used to losing and I have never been at a match where I saw the Louth fans behave like this. We had just reached our first Leinster final in 50 years and were within seconds of victory and had it taken from us. When I say taken I mean it, the referee did not make a spur of the moment decision, he took a minute to give the most outrageous decision ever seen at Croke Park. He did not consult his linesmen, he just told them to raise the green flag so try to understand we were devastated, angry and extremely bitter. This was not the Meath players fault and our venom was directed at the officials. The fact that some idiots decided to physically attack the referee does not take away from the fact that it was a totally outrageous decision by the officials. They stole our hour of glory and no replay can ever make up for that. The calls for a replay while understandable are not the solution. If there was to be one it would be a no-win situation for both counties. If any good is to come out of this than it would be that the Leinster committee come out and say the decision was wrong and a grave injustice was done to Louth on the day. The other would be the introduction of goal-line technology for the future. On another note in relation to the behaviour of Louth fans in Drogheda last night believe me when I tell you that Meath fans have been equally culpable of despicable behaviour in Drogheda too over the years. Regards – Gerard

  7. nessy

    I would like to point out that, while I have always allowed any comments on my blog, I will not tolerate being verbally abused. Therefore these comments will not appear. Grow up

  8. nessy

    Hi Adrian,

    Thanks for your comment, if you saw Eamonn O’Brien’s interview on the Sunday Game he said he wasn’t happy with the way things happened and no, Meath can’t really celebrate.

    Unfortunately though, thanks to some louts, the issue has become more than a football game, more than sport, once violence was brought in. The referee is only human and sometimes gets things wrong. I accept that. Any sympathy that I had though is gone. Violence is not the answer to anything and definitely should not be tolerated by the GAA.

    Meath will never be able to look at the game as a win, if there is a replay so be it. But the game is no longer an issue, there a few Louth players who would probably be suspended if there was a replay and they wont be happy with that either.

    But again, the game is no longer an issue, whatever the outcome of the game I really cant believe that loutish behaviour, the kind normally associated with English soccer, has crept into the GAA.

    Give them a replay, if that’s what it takes. Louth are also bring Meath football into disrepute but what will they be like if they lost a replay?


  9. Adrian Cooney

    Im a Meath man from Gormanstown , but there is no way Meath should have won, that was not a goal scored, it was thrown over the line. Louth were the better team & they played the better game, thats not saying Meath didn’t play well because they did, both teams played well, but Louth won that match no doubt about it, a re-match is needed & Meath should not be holding their head high in taking that cup, in saying that Louth have nothing to hold their head high about either with the disgracefull carry on from the supporters. My point is Louth need a replay they were robbed.