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‘Why were we singled out?’


Pic: Conor McKeown

Fans who breached Covid-19 regulations escorted from GAA game by Gardaí

Anton McNulty

ONE of the four men who was escorted from MacHale Park, Castlebar last Saturday evening by gardaí  — after they had gained entry to watch a Mayo GAA club championship match by jumping a stadium wall — says they ‘don’t know why they were singled out’ and asked to leave.
The match between Breaffy and Westport was being played ‘behind closed doors’ due to the current Covid-19 Government guidelines and public health restrictions, so only a very limited number of people were allowed inside the stadium by Mayo GAA officials and stewards.
These included members of both participating clubs and squads, match officials, members of the media and other essential match-day personnel.
Four men were escorted from MacHale Park by two Gardai during the first half of the Mayo SFC semi-final after they had refused a number of requests from Mayo GAA stewards to leave the ground.
The Mayo News has learned that the four men gained entry to MacHale Park after jumping a perimeter wall, and they remained in the ground until 25 minutes into the first half when they were approached by a steward to leave after it had been established that they were not among the list of people who had received permission to be there.
One of the men, who did not wish to be named, told The Mayo News that they they did not know why they were singled out for special attention by the stewards on duty.
“In fairness we jumped the wall, but a few others jumped it before us,” he said.
“We were to meet other people before hand but they had already gone in so we gave them a call to see if they had any trouble. They had no hassle. They said to jump the wall and come in around the goal and we would be sound.”

Refused entry
The four men tried to get into the main stand but were refused entry and decided to go to the opposite side of the ground and sat on the concrete steps. They were there for most of the first half when a steward came over and told them to leave.
“The stewards said we were being put out is because we weren’t on the list, even though we knew plenty who were there who were also not on the list. We said we’d leave when everyone else goes, you can’t just pick on us.
“When we said we were not moving until everyone else is going, he said ‘that’s alright, we’ll move you’. We didn’t think they would call the guards but the next thing they landed in and we were pointed out and they came across to us. The guards were only doing their job and were sound to us but they had to put us out.”
The four men who attended were photographed by a number of photographers who were working at the game; three of them were subsequently identified as Ger Sheridan and Stephen King from Westport and Seán Ketterick from Louisburgh. It was not long before the photographs appeared on social media and they also appeared in the national press.

Not abusive
The man who spoke to The Mayo News said he wished to clarify that they were in no way abusive to any GAA officials during their time in the stadium.
“We didn’t want this attention, but once the photos started coming out I was getting calls from people saying they heard we were causing trouble and abusing the linesman and had to be thrown out. That annoyed us because we weren’t doing that.
“We didn’t think we were doing anything overly wrong to be honest. I thought once we were in and weren’t causing bother and causing a scene we would be sound and left alone. I don’t know why were were singled out.”
A Mayo GAA spokesman said: “With the current Government guidelines and public health restrictions meaning that all GAA matches must be played behind closed doors, our stewards were following protocols when they asked a number of people to leave MacHale Park last Saturday evening after they had gained access to the stadium without our knowledge.
“Unfortunately, they were unwilling to leave when asked to do so on two occasions by members of our stewarding team so the Gardai were called to escort them off the premises.
“Our stewards were following the Government guidelines that are currently in place.”
The Mayo News understands others who gained access to the stadium prior to the game were asked to leave, and did so when county board officials pointed out they were not on the list.