Off The Fence

Red Hand fans not pleased about taking a stand

CAST ASIDE: Tyrone season ticket holders feel that they are being mistreated having followed their team across Ireland Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Off The Fence with Padraig O Meiscill

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IT seems that Dublin's scheduled trip to Healy Park this Saturday night has knocked quite a few noses out of joint.

The boys from the big smoke always attract sell-out audiences and this weekend's clash with Tyrone will be no different.

An All-Ireland semi-final spot will be all but secured for whoever prevails in the meeting of Mickey Harte's side and the team that has gotten their hands on Sam Maguire for the last three years. This is when the Championship summer really hots up.

The catch is that there are Tyrone fans who have been following the men in white-and-red since the frost was still on the ground feeling under-appreciated as the good-time throngs ready themselves to hijack the bandwagon.

Tyrone season ticket holders will have to make do with a spot on the terraces this Saturday, with the seats in the stand going on general sale. Not a good move in the eyes of some of the O'Neill county faithful.

‘Tyrone supporter' was one of those who got in contact to complain.

“Following an email I received last night from Croke Park, it seems that season ticket holders have been thrown to the wolves. We have been informed that due to limited seats in the stand, we have now been pushed into the terraces for the clash against Dublin.

“Are the seats being kept for the Dublin/Tyrone hierarchy and not us who pay our €120 euro up front in November? As a long-standing Tyrone season ticket holder I feel disgusted as I am riddled with arthritis in my feet and hands and will be unable to stand for hours next Saturday.

“We have travelled the length and breadth of Ireland this season but this is the last straw for me and I doubt I'm going to have to watch Tyrone now on TV.”

‘Declan', a lifelong Tyrone fan, is “absolutely disgusted” at the alleged maltreatment of Red Hand season ticket holders.

“The reason we buy season tickets is because we simply don't want to stand in the terrace,” Declan says.

“A lot of season ticket holders are aged people or parents with young children. Because of the new format, this is probably the biggest home match Tyrone has ever played in and we are treated by the county board as if we are a nuisance. These are the same supporters who have travelled to all the Gaelic outposts of Ireland in support of Tyrone.

“This is a home game for Tyrone and, so, our county board should be taking care of us. Forget this rubbish of too many season ticket holders. Tyrone should be informing their counterparts in Dublin that their season ticket holders will be in the terrace.”

‘Tyrone season ticket holder' is of the same mind as ‘Declan':

“I want to complain about the way the GAA has been treating season ticket holders this season so far,” he begins.

“For a lot of season ticket holders from Tyrone who've travelled to Portlaoise, Enniskillen, Meath, Carlow, Dublin, when we finally get our game at home, the GAA emailed us last week to tell us that we're going to go stand on the terrace, that we're not going to be allowed into the 5,000 seats that Omagh holds.

“When the GAA was emailed about this, they told us that these tickets had been distributed through the county board and they'd no other option. I think the loyal fans should get these seats on a first come, first served basis like they do in a league match when it's oversubscribed, like against Dublin or any other big team.

“Why follow a team from the beginning of January to now to be treated like this?”

Reply

We put these complaints to the GAA who issued the following response.

“We are treating all of the season ticket holders in the same way because of the shortage of seats at Healy Park. To do otherwise would be difficult to justify especially as we don't have or keep records of ailments or disabilities people may have because it is not asked at the time of purchase.”

It may not be much use this weekend, but perhaps from next season on the GAA can look at enquiring about any health issues in their season ticket application forms.

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Moving on from Healy Park, there were other reasons why northern Gaels were getting irate this week.

‘Thomas from Down' had a piece of his mind for those he accuses of partitionist attitudes: “I am writing to you about the way the GAA and RTÉ are treating northern fans,” he says.

“They have sold out the old fans that have not got the high-priced Sky TV to show GAA matches. Get the Sky in for what? To pay high prices to watch repeat of programmes just to watch the few GAA games they are showing! The GAA saw € signs and jumped at it, not thinking of the fans that don't have Sky.

“To RTÉ and the GAA at headquarters: Our national games should be number one priority at all times; for the 32 counties, not just 26 counties as was the case on July 7, 2018.”

Reply:

Thomas, maybe you missed last Saturday's Irish News, so here's a short re-run including what RTE's new head of sport, Declan McBennett, had to say on this thorny issue:

RTÉ is a "32-county broadcaster" and "do not stop people in the north watching Gaelic games", said the Monaghan native.

McBennett re-iterated that problems whereby northern viewers cannot access RTÉ because of IP (internet protocol) addresses defaulting to locations in England are not his responsibility.

RTÉ and TG4 programmes are often 'geo-blocked' for northern web users whose devices are incorrectly linked to England.

"We didn't draw up the rights agreement. If you have a UK ISP address then it's going to be blocked to you because that's what technology does," he said.

"I want as many people as possible in the 32 counties to see as much Gaelic games as possible.

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