Belfast Telegraph

Portadown boss Ronnie McFall blasts the IFA: "They have locked about 3,000 to 4,000 fans out of the family home!"

By Steven Beacom

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall has slammed the Irish FA's decision to stage this year's Irish Cup final between his side and Glentoran at the Oval.

McFall, the most experienced man in the local game, has seen and done just about it all but this episode and how it has been dealt with by local football's governing body has left him shocked and dismayed.

While fully appreciative of the issues surrounding Windsor Park and the problems with the structure of the Kop Stand, he cannot understand why the authorities did not make moves to play the May 2 Cup final at the Kingspan Stadium, home of Ulster Rugby.

The Kingspan could house 9,000 fans for the final, while the capacity for the decider at the Oval, home of Glentoran, looks like being 6,000.

Portadown's most successful manager feels both sets of fans and Irish League football in general have been badly let down by the IFA.

"The Irish FA keep going on about the football family. Well, the way they have handled the Irish Cup final, they have locked about 3,000 to 4,000 fans out of the family home," said McFall, who has been the boss at Shamrock Park since 1986.

"I've been in football for many, many years and this is the first time I have experienced something like this in local football. We all know there are issues with Windsor Park at the moment, but it is a crazy decision to stage the final at the Oval when there were possibilities to take it to the Kingspan Stadium with a greater capacity.

"There will be supporters of both clubs, who have followed Portadown and Glentoran through thick and thin, who won't be able to get a ticket for the final because so few are available.

"I genuinely believe the IFA are treating the supporters like second-class citizens."

Having sympathy for fans likely to miss out on the final due to the size of the ground, McFall, who won a host of trophies as Glentoran manager between 1979 and 1984, has also voiced his concern about the method being used by the IFA to sell tickets for the game.

Basically, if fans are not season ticket holders or shareholders, they have to contact Ticketmaster on Monday and hope to get lucky, paying a booking fee in the process.

There is a fierce rivalry between Glentoran and Portadown and McFall has concerns about segregation on the day, which would surely be regarded as a necessity.

He said: "With the system that is being used for tickets, I would have thought segregation is going to be difficult. There is a history between the clubs and while I obviously hope the day goes well, who knows what could happen if fans from one club ended up beside fans of another."

In yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, Michael Wilson, the chairman of the prominent Cookstown Glentoran Supporters Club, urged both clubs to boycott the final if the IFA fail to come up with acceptable answers regarding the new venue and ticketing arrangements.

With a trophy at stake, and thousands of pounds from European qualification up for grabs, such a scenario is highly unlikely, though there was the infamous case back in 1999 when there was NO Irish Cup final between McFall's Portadown and Cliftonville, after it was found Simon Gribben had played for the Solitude outfit in an earlier round when he was ineligible to do so.

Cliftonville were eliminated from the competition and Portadown were awarded the silverware and winners medals without playing a game.

McFall fully expects the 2015 final will go ahead, but added: "When you hear loyal fans talk about boycotting the final, it gives you an indication of how strongly they feel about the situation. I completely understand their frustrations with it all."

McFall was frustrated himself earlier this week when informed that defender Chris Casement would miss next month's final.

The Ports attempted to have a six-match ban for an alleged headbutting offence overturned but the ban was upheld by the IFA.

Casement had been hit with the suspension by the IFA Disciplinary Committee after an incident with Dungannon Swifts' Terry Fitzpatrick during a game last month.

The Ports produced video evidence and Fitzpatrick gave a statement exonerating Casement of any headbutt, but the IFA decided that the ban should stand.

It means Casement will miss Portadown's final league game of the season against Linfield on Saturday week, the first four league games of next season and the Cup final, which would have been one of the biggest matches of his career.

"I don't believe justice was served," said McFall. "In my view for the ban to be upheld, this is a slight on the character of Chris and also Terry Fitzpatrick who spoke up for him. Chris is naturally gutted.

"Everyone at the club feels for him."

Belfast Telegraph


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