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English Football Fans Riot at Lansdowne Road in 1995
Ireland played England in a friendly match on 15th of February 1995 at the old Lansdowne Road (now Aviva Stadium). Four thousand English fans had travelled over for the match however a significant element of this support was made up of a neo-nazi group known as Combat 18.
The last meeting between the Republic of Ireland and England at the same venue was during the Euro 1992 qualifiers and this had been marked by clashes between English fans and Gardai in the centre of Dublin. This, allied to a history of English football hooliganism and violence, led to number of meetings involving the FAI, the English FA, and the Gardai.
According to former FAI CEO Bernard O'Byrne, there had been no specific intelligence suggesting that there would be violence at the match. O'Byrne said that the Gardai told the FAI to "...look after the crowd inside the ground in terms of normal stewarding inside the ground and we'll look after everything else."
During the pre-match build-up some Irish fans booed during the playing of God Save the Queen. This was met by a section of the English fans making Nazi salutes during the playing of Amhrain na BhFiann and chanting "no surrender to the IRA" and "Ulster is British".
The match kicked off at 6:15pm and was being played in a competitive but good-spirited manner. After 21 minutes David Kelly latched on to a shrewd John Sheridan through ball and scored from a tight angle beating David Seaman in the English goal.
This was the trigger for the English hooligans to begin agitating in the upper West Stand. A disallowed English goal just minutes later escalated the violence. The Gardai were slow to react as the English fans began to rip up seating to throw down on the Irish fans in the lower tier.
Clearly it had been a major error of judgement to situate the English fans in the upper tier.
As the levels of violence escalated the referee, Dick Jol, had no other alternative but get the players off the pitch and to abandon the match.
Ireland defender Alan Kernaghan stated that he was very concerned for the fate of his team-mates Denis Irwin and Eddie McGoldrick as they were closest Irish players to the violence.
"I was fearful for Eddie and Denis, because they were right in the firing range. It was very dangerous when you saw the stuff being thrown around. It was frightening as well, especially when you have all your family in the stands."
Denis Irwin's views of the events that fateful night - "... they [the English fans] were sat in the wrong area anyway it's always easy in hindsight but it didn't make sense sticking them up there. And it just looked like they were fighting amongst themselves and causing trouble. Seats started spilling onto the pitch kind of thing and seats were being ripped out and that ... When we were hauled off the pitch we knew how serious it was and then as time went on and the match was abandoned. Safety's always a priority obviously."
"England were trying to root the problems out for years and years and there had been trouble when they travelled away but to have it on your own doorstep, was a bit of a shock I suppose. We obviously sat in the dressing-room and we were aware of what was going on but it was just a bit of a shock to be honest. We wanted to get out and get on with the game and hope it would settle down but that didn't happen of course."
The stewards and few Gardai that were in the ground struggled to contain the English rioters. The Garda public order unit was based at the Mount Herbert Hotel and when they arrived at Lansdowne Road they were directed to the wrong gate. The FAI's O'Byrne likened it to a scene from the Keystone Cops. By the time the riot police gained access to the Upper West Stand it was open warfare.
Gardai and stewards contained those responsible in the West Stand, while the majority Irish fans left Lansdowne Road. However, a some overzealous Irish fans used this opportunity to attack the English fans, while members of the Garda riot squad were quite heavy handed in their policing of the hooligans. Nevertheless there was very little sympathy for those on the receiving end as the rioters had shown absolutely no regard for the Irish fans in the lower tier in the stand.
As well as the 30 fans who had to go to hospital after the game, the violence had led to one fatality. An Irish fan in his 60s was complaining of chest pains as he was leaving the stadium, and died of heart failure in the ambulance on the way to St Vincent's Hospital.
Irish manager Jack Charlton commented afterwards "My feelings turned from concern to anger. I was furious about what happened. It was a game of football and a few silly buggers turned it into this."
English journalist Henry Winter commented "I can remember staying in town that night and talking to Irish people. They were coming up saying well it's not your fault, it was only a few of them, and I was thinking I've got a decent pair of eyes and I could see the England fans who were rioting. This wasn't the minority. This was clearly orchestrated and clearly a huge humiliation for English football."
Immediate reaction cast some doubts over England's ability to host the 1996 European Championships, but with security ramped up for the tournament and an official enquiry determining that the Gardai did not adequately prepare or co-ordinate the Lansdowne Road clash the tournament went ahead in England.
Video of Ireland V England match in 1995
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