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Coronavirus: PSNI investigating pitch invasion after GAA final in Omagh


The scenes on the pitch following the Dungannon win. Pic BBC.

The scenes on the pitch following the Dungannon win. Pic BBC.

The scenes on the pitch following the Dungannon win. Pic BBC.

Police say they are reviewing footage of a pitch invasion at the end of a GAA final in Tyrone on Sunday.

Speaking about the footage, Chief Superintendent Ryan Henderson said police are investigating the matter.

“We are aware of an incident at a GAA match in Omagh yesterday [Sunday] and will be viewing all available evidence to determine any potential breach of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations NI 2020) or breach of any other statute identified in respect of any individual.”

Earlier Ulster GAA said the pitch invasion breached its protocols and public health guidance and put communities at risk.

The organisation said the scenes also potentially undermined the case to have spectators at sports games.

Jubilant crowds raced onto the field at Omagh's Healy Park following Dungannon Clarkes' victory over Trillick in the Tyrone football final on Sunday.

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

Speaking at the Stormont press conference on Monday, First Minister Arlene Foster was critical of scenes at the match.

“That kind of behaviour just isn’t a risk to those present, but of course for everyone they subsequently come into contact with. It’s a risk to your family, it’s a risk to your friends and your neighbours, to your colleagues and indeed to your customers,” Mrs Foster said.

“I’m putting you on notice that we intend to take this matter very seriously.”

In an earlier Tweet, Mrs Foster expressed “deep concern” and said Ulster GAA had “serious questions to answer”.

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.”

In a statement Ulster GAA said it "fully realises that this was a moment of great joy for the Dungannon Clarkes Club in winning their first County title since 1956" and congratulated them on their 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."

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 said it was "strongly re-iterating" its message spectators should not enter the field of playing following games.

"The GAA has put in place protocols surrounding all aspects of the playing of games and, for the greater part, they have been universally observed," it continued.

"Over the weekend there were adult county finals in six of our nine counties and evidence from across the province is that these protocols were adhered to, with spectators remaining in the stand during post-match presentations."

"The GAA has led the way in its response to this pandemic at community level and has safely returned players and spectators to our games in a safe and responsible way. Ulster GAA has worked closely with our counties co-operating with governments and public health agencies adhering to the restrictions and conveying wider public health messages to our members.

"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.

"With more county finals due in the coming weeks, Ulster GAA is again appealing to all our units to behave responsibly. The scenes of last night cannot be repeated or we will risk going back to a position where all games will be played behind closed doors."

Sinn Fein South Down MLA Sinead Ennis took to Twitter to defend the GAA saying she was proud to be a member.

"Our Association has led by example throughout this pandemic," she posted.

"Our clubs and county boards were the vanguard of the community response to Covid19. We will not allow our games to be demonised and scapegoated by anyone."

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."

Belfast Telegraph