Safety at MacCumhaill Park to be reviewed after Sunday

Safety at MacCumhaill Park to be reviewed after Sunday
Tom Comack sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Donegal GAA officials are to carry out a review of crowd control in Sean MacCumhaill Park following safety issues at last Sunday’s county final.

The main source of concern following the county final are safety and crowd control issues in the stand at the main county ground.

This follows angry exchanges between stewards and patrons after the stand was closed because it had reached capacity and after patrons congregated in the walkway behind the seats at the back of the stand.

The Sean MacCumhaill Park stand has a capacity of 4,200. And with last Sunday’s record attendance, of close on 8,000, the stand was closed up to 45 minutes before throw-in time.

Patrons who arrived to find the covered section of the stand full were reluctant to go to the uncovered section.

Many of them instead congregated in the walkway at the rear of the stand.

There were five rows of seats at the front of the stand (which is not covered) left unused because patrons did not want to use the wet seats.

This led to the angry exchanges between fans and the stewards and gardaí who were on duty in the stand on the day.

“There was no violence, just verbal exchanges, but it wasn’t very pleasant,” Edward Molloy, chief steward in MacCumhaill Park for last Sunday’s game, told the Democrat.

“We were unfortunate with the weather. Sunday was a wet day and if it had been a dry day there would be no problem.

“We also had one of the biggest crowds we’ve had at a county final in a good few years.”

At the centre of the problem is the rows of seats at the front of the stand which are uncovered and open to the elements. And when it rains, patrons don’t want to sit in these seats.

That was the case on Sunday and because the stand was full, these people congregated in the walkway at the back of the stand behind the seats.

“The stewards were trying to keep the walkway clear and move supporters on,” Mr. Molloy said.

“In fairness most people obeyed the stewards.

“But you are always going to get a small group that will not co-operate and it was these people that created the hassle.”

The chief steward went on to say that what happened on Sunday was unacceptable going forward and a solution to the problem is going to have to be found.

One remedy that is being considered is to erect a closed barrier behind the seated area similar to those erected in Celtic Park, Derry and Healy Park, Omagh. These barriers block the view of the playing pitch.

Donegal chairman Sean Dunnion confirmed that there will be a debriefing, as is standard practice after every big game, in the next week or so.

He said the issues that arose at last Sunday’s final would be on the agenda of that meeting.

However, the chairman was non committal on whether barriers, similar those erected in Celtic Park and Healy Park, were being considered.

“Lessons have to be learned from last Sunday and we will have to take them on board going forward,” said the chairman.

“We have big games coming up next year again in the National League and we have a home game in the championship. We have a county final again next year and are going to have see what can be done to avoid the problem experienced last Sunday.”

The Democrat has learned that a proposal to erect barriers similar to the ones in Celtic Park and Healy Park was put to the county executive last year but no action was taken.

Making the stand all ticket for big match days may also be considered while it is understood entrance to the stand may be up for review.