All Ireland Football Championship: Down fans urged not to jeer Cork at Croke Park
Down face a massive test of skill and character against Cork in the All Ireland football final on Sunday week but it’s not only the players who will come under the closest scrutiny in the Croke Park showdown.
The thousands of Mourne County followers who will throng the Headquarters stands and terraces have already been presented with a double challenge even before a ball is kicked in the contest.
Not only are the fans being urged to support the new ‘Respect’ initiative which has been launched by the county board but they have been invited to take a leaf out of the hurling finalists’ fans book by not trying to mount a pitch invasion at the end of the game.
It was after considerable concern was voiced within Down surrounding the booing of free-takers by followers of different teams in recent Championship matches that officials decided to launch a ‘Respect’ campaign that will now extend beyond the county boundary.
“The initiative urges all fans to accord free-takers silence and calls for verbal abuse of players and match officials to be stamped out.
Already posters have flooded Down to highlight the ‘Respect’ drive and county chairman Seamus Walsh believes that these will have the desired effect.
“Many people are dismayed at the level of booing and cat-calling at recent games. The All Ireland final is a huge occasion and we don’t want it to be sullied by such behaviour,” said Walsh.
And Down PRO Ronan McMahon has confirmed that the ‘Respect’ initiative is aimed at persuading Down fans to show courtesy to the Cork players.
“Our fans can get right behind their team by cheering them on rather than jeering the opposition.
“We in Down can show the way in terms of sportsmanship. We staged an event on Monday night in Newry that saw many fans meet with the players and they showed great patience and understanding. Hopefully this will be the case again on Sunday week,” says McMahon.
And while Down officials will assess their fans’ response in the final, the Croke Park authorities will have even greater reason to hope that, in the event of a Mourne County victory, they will not attempt to mount a post-match pitch invasion.
The GAA’s Communications Director Lisa Clancy has already indicated that football followers will be expected to replicate the behaviour of their hurling counterparts Tipperary and Kilkenny last Sunday by remaining in their places when the Sam Maguire Cup is presented in the Hogan Stand.