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John O'Sullivan: Time for fans to weed out troublemakers from the league we all love

Name and shame those that make us uncomfortable at League of Ireland games.

There was trouble in an Inchicore pub before Cork City's visit to Richmond Park last Friday night.
There was trouble in an Inchicore pub before Cork City's visit to Richmond Park last Friday night.
Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

I AM SO sick of looking at pictures of groups of gobshites, wearing Stone Island jackets and Burberry scarves, scowling at cameras – trying to look menacing. Sick of it.

There’s an almost negligible bunch of these gowls at each club, causing varying levels of discomfort and disgust, most are harmless and wrapped up in bravado. I used to laugh at their emulating Frodo Baggins in that awful ‘Green Street’ movie but now I’m just weary. I’ve seen them pop their heads above the parapet once too often, it’s time to take aim back.

After decades of attending League of Ireland matches, I’ve experienced only a handful of occasions where I’ve felt uncomfortable. On Setanta Cup trips cross border to Linfield and Portadown, or European trips to Eastern Europe, I’ve been uncomfortable but I’ve never actually felt in danger.

I’m not naïve, working in the league for as long as I have, I’ve been aware of serious incidents and isolated incidents of violence, I’ve been on the phone with a fellow Cork City board member while he sat by the bedside of a 15-year-old kid while that child’s parents travelled from Cork following an incident in Dublin which came very close to us losing him.

The headlines and attention that the gurriers mentioned above garner is understandable, but can give a false representation about how truly safe League of Ireland games are for families and fans in general.

I found myself considering this late last Friday night, when news started to filter through that there had been an incident in McDowell’s bar in Inchicore prior to kick-off of the SSE Airtricity League opener between St Pats and Cork City.

I contacted fans of both clubs who had been in the bar and while it’s clear that a group from Cork instigated the incident, there was also a few from Pats who, in the company of a like minded group from Sheffield were only delighted to see the Cork group walk into the bar.

Glasses, barstools and slaps were thrown and as is always the case in these situations, innocent and confused people got stuck in the middle.

Among the crowd in McDowell’s when the incident kicked off were Brian Kerr, journalists, kids, parents and grandparents and fans of both clubs who, until that point, had been mixing well. Cork’s RedFM ended up giving over almost two days coverage to the incident on their morning talkshow, inundated with callers eager to get unrelated issues off their chests, with swearing at matches becoming a hot topic.

A percentage of the thousands of people considering whether to attend Cork City’s home opener tonight will probably stay home given the coverage, their fears stoked out of all proportion.

After the incident, I saw self-proclaimed Pat’s fans on Twitter – with the obligatory Stone Island group shot as their profile pic, celebrate the victory “on and off the pitch”. I saw others identify the alleged instigator of the issue by name. A Cork name I’m familiar with, that I banned myself back in 2011, still hanging around like a bad smell at away games. I’m pretty sure he can no longer get into home games.

Name and shame 

These groups need to be stopped and removed from our game and fans have a responsibility here. There is a sense in some quarters that you have to protect your own, even when they’re out of order. Screw that.

Name and shame the pricks that will cause all Cork City and St Pats games to be reclassified as needing greater garda presence at a significantly greater cost. Identify those that will mean the Garda presence at our games will be black clad and foreboding rather than Hi-Vis vested. Point out those that cause you to worry if you should bring your kid to this game, or sit in that section of a given ground.

I’d expect that some of the City fans who will appear in the McDowell’s CCTV are the same people who seem to keep *accidentally* ending up in trouble. It’s tiresome. But we have a good idea who they are and we’re sick of their presence. I’m sure Pats fans are the same, they won’t like that a Cork City fan who was chatting at the bar in McDowell’s ended up in hospital after getting a bottle over the head as English accents shouted “get ‘em”.

Let’s weed them out, because their strength isn’t in their numbers, it’s in our nervous silence. From now on, if you’re at a match, wearing a Stone Island jacket and a Burberry scarf I’m going to laugh at you. 

Right through the above I’ve used a variety of names towards these groups of neds, chavs, kens. They all came from the New York Times Dialect Quiz that went viral in Ireland last week. In particular as answer options to the question “Which of these words (if any) would you use for a young person characterised by brash, loutish behaviour and, often, low social status?”

The colour coded map at the end of the New York Times Dialect Quiz that raged across social media last week showed that I was about as Irish as you could get, with the UK as pale as can be. Most Irish people I saw share their maps showed similar. Football violence is alien to our culture, it’s a stylised import propagated by weak and weak-minded gobshites looking to be feared and held in some warped esteem.

Rob them of anything approaching respect or consideration. Laugh at their costume, their false bravado, their lies, their stories. Treat them with the contempt and disdain they deserve, you owe them nothing, you owe your club and your sport enough to name and shame them.

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