GAA Football

In The Irish News on Sept 30, 1996: Meath escape to victory - and Royals fan escapes death in stand fall

Mayo manager John Maughan was unhappy with the refereeing in the stormy 1996 All-Ireland SFC Final replay. Pic Ann McManus

A GAA fan had a miraculous escape from death when he fell through the roof of a stand during yesterday's All-Ireland final replay at Dublin's Croke Park.

Several other supporters were injured in the incident, which happened in the closing stages of Meath's dramatic single-point win over Mayo.

The Meath supporter, in his 20s, illegally climbed from the Hill 16 terracing to the top of the Nally Stand, but, as he celebrated his team's match-winning goal, the structure gave way under his weight.

He would have dropped more than 40ft landing on packed rows of seated supporters below, but his fall was broken after less than 10ft when he landed on a girder below the roof. The iron stanchion, less than 18 inches wide, supports the main electronic scoreboard at Croke Park.

Several heavy slabs of asbestos fell from the damaged roof onto the heads of the supporters below. At least three were treated for cuts and bruises and one was led away with blood pouring from his head, but a gardai at the scene said later that none of the injuries were serious.

Meanwhile, the spectator clinging to the girder above, who appeared to be in a state of shock, edged his way slowly to a nearby RTE television gantry. He was pulled to safety by television staff, but was then led away by two uniformed gardai who climbed a ladder to reach the gantry.

Pieces of jagged masonry continued to smash to the ground for several minutes afterwards.

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Bitterly disappointed Mayo manager John Maughan made little attempt to hide his anger at a couple of controversial decisions made by referee Pat McEneaney at crucial stages of yesterday's All-Ireland SFC football final replay, won 2-9 to 1-11 by Meath.

It was clear that Maughan was far from happy with the circumstances which led to Meath's two goals.

"The penalty decision. Penalties are always going to be topics of debate. But I have to say that the general feeling in the dressing room is that there were some harsh decisions given against Mayo. Had we won the game obviously we wouldn't be talking about that now."

Maughan revealed that sent-off midfielder Liam McHale had picked up a suspected broken jaw during the melee which led to his dismissal.

"We certainly came off worse from the sending-off. I haven't actually spoken to Liam at length. But it is clear that he was on the receiving end of quite a number of blows.

"To lose your most influential player, a player who was 'man of the match' in the drawn game was hard to take. I suspect had we had Liam McHale for the whole game we would have won the All-Ireland."

Not surprisingly the mood in the Meath dressing room was very different. Their manager Sean Boylan paid tribute to the referee's performance. "He seemed to me to be very much on top of the play. When you are up in the stands you can see all sorts of things which maybe the referee and perhaps people even in the dug-outs are missing.

"It's difficult for a referee to get 70 or 80 per cent of the things that go on. But I believe he got 90 per cent right today which is a very good effort."

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LIFE has turned full circle for Damien Loughran. Four months ago he lay seriously injured and close to death on a football pitch, surrounded by his distraught Carrickmore team-mates.

On Saturday evening he was encircled by those same colleagues, in similar surroundings, but the mood was very much different.

The Carrickmore captain was again the focus of attention as he raised the O'Neill cup in emotional triumph.

Not only did he lead his side to a second successive Tyrone Senior Championship title, but he also scored the goal of the season, a score which was to prove vital in Carmen's two-point victory over Errigal Ciaran, 2-8 to 1-9.

Another glory day in the history of a famous club, and now they have their sights set on emulating the legendary achievements of the great three-in-a-row side of the Seventies.

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