Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster 'deeply concerned' by pitch invasion after Dunganon Clarke's beat Trillick in Tyrone SFC

Dungannon Clarke's celebrate with the O'Neill Cup at Healy Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Michael McHugh, Press Association

First Minister Arlene Foster has expressed deep concern at a pitch invasion following a GAA club final in Co Tyrone.

Jubilant crowds raced onto the field at Omagh's Healy Park following Dungannon Clarke's victory over Trillick in the Tyrone football final. Read more

It has prompted concerns about social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, Arlene Foster said.

Dungannon became Tyrone football champions for the first time in 64 years after securing victory in a penalty shoot-out.

Mrs Foster tweeted: "Significant milestone for Dgn but Covid-19 is no respecter of victories. Other events being responsible.

"Sport & health will be the losers.

"UlsterGAA need to address this. Serious questions arising from videos."

Mrs Foster added: "Deeply concerned about the images from yesterday's GAA match."

In a statement, a spokesman for Ulster GAA said the scenes on Sunday night cannot be repeated, otherwise it risks returning to games being played behind closed doors.

The sports organisation said it is "strongly reiterating" the message that no spectators should enter the field of playing following games.

"The on-pitch celebration scenes following the Tyrone county final in Omagh not only breached GAA protocols but, and much more significantly, public health guidelines," the statement said.

"Ulster GAA fully realises that this was a moment of great joy for the Dungannon Clarkes club in winning their first county title since 1956 and congratulations to them on this success.

"The dramatic nature of the conclusion of the game probably added to the exuberance but we are living in a pandemic and the post-match scenes did not portray the association in a positive light."

It added: "The GAA has acted in a positive manner since the outbreak of the pandemic, with attendances at games strictly regulated.

"Our supporters have responded positively and responsibly but last night's scenes undoubtedly placed GAA members and their local community at greater risk to Covid 19.

"It also potentially undermines the GAA case, and indeed the case for wider sport, to be permitted to have increased numbers attend our games."

Ulster GAA has a section of its website dedicated to keeping people safe during the pandemic.

That includes encouragement to download the Covid-19 tracker phone app.

A special Covid-19 advisory group was established within the GAA to inform the safe resumption of activities.

Earlier this summer, Ulster GAA set limits on the number of spectators attending events.

Supporters were strongly advised to wear face coverings at games and bring their own hand sanitiser.

Ulster GAA has been approached for comment.

Read more: Dungannon Clarke's #RefuseToLose and end 64-year wait in Tyrone SFC

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: "At the beginning of August the Executive announced that some spectators can attend organised outdoor sports fixtures or events.

"The department issued guidance to assist sports governing bodies, clubs and venue operators comply with the regulations, which provided guiding principles surrounding the safe return of limited spectators at outdoor sports events.

"It included details on how spectators should follow the guidance and highlighted the required behaviour of spectators attending the events to help reduce the possible spread of Covid."



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