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Stewards were in control of crowd issues: Murphy

By John Campbell

Ulster Council chiefs have confirmed that there were three flashpoints in the crowd during Sunday's drawn provincial club SFC quarter-final between Crossmaglen Rangers and Kilcoo in Newry, but insisted they were not serious.

There were always fears that the game would be an ill-tempered affair as last year's Ulster final between the sides was marred by allegations that Crossmaglen player Aaron Cunningham was racially abused.

A number of unsavoury incidents occurred in the first half of their feisty rematch and two players were booked for wrestling off the ball – even before the throw-in.

A supporter got involved in a heated exchange with a section of the Crossmaglen substitutes on two separate occasions, but tensions appeared to dissipate after half-time.

Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy, who was event controller at the game at Pairc Esler, has acknowledged that there was a lot of tension in the ground and some minor crowd trouble.

"There were three incidents when matters became difficult, but I am satisfied that the stewards dealt with it accordingly," Murphy said.

"The report I have was that it was banter and they were in control of the situation."

Murphy backed the actions of the stewards on duty for how they handled the incidents and prevented them from getting out of control.

"Sometimes if you intervene, you can end up with a bigger problem," added Murphy .

"According to my information, the stewards assessed the situation and were quite satisfied they were able to manage it."

Murphy said there was too much hype about last year's clash in the build-up and said the media had played some part but were not wholly responsible.

But he stressed that the clubs themselves handled the situation responsibly on the day and does not believe there will be any further trouble at next Sunday's replay.

Crossmaglen looked for home advantage for it on the grounds that their pitch is a designated county ground but, as expected, it is fixed for the Athletic Grounds in Armagh;the winners will play Derry champions Ballinderry on November 17.

Murphy has accepted that housing substitutes in the stands is an issue the GAA needs to examine, especially when matches are not ticketed and supporters of one team get to sit behind substitutes of the other, as happened last Sunday.

Cunningham was among Crossmaglen's subs due to injury, but is expected to be fit to start the replay. The Armagh champions, chasing an Ulster four-in-a-row and with Joe Kernan back at their helm, will still be without the manager's son Aaron, out for two months with a heel injury.

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