Europe

Republic of Ireland and England play first Dublin match since riot

Missiles were thrown down from the West Stand at Dublin's Lansdowne Road in 1995 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Missiles were thrown down from the West Stand at Dublin's Lansdowne Road in 1995

The Republic of Ireland played England in an football international in Dublin at the weekend for the first time since serious rioting more than 20 years ago.

The two teams faced each other in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

In February 1995, a match that was billed as a friendly ended up being abandoned after a section of the travelling support ripped up seats and threw missiles during the first half when the Republic of Ireland took the lead in the 22nd minute.

David Kelly, who scored that goal, said the joy of scoring was quickly replaced by disappointment.

"We'd been looking forward to a really good game - England were an extremely strong team and we were very confident and hopeful of putting on a good performance and winning," said the Birmingham-born striker.

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Image caption An injured Irish fan being helped during the 1995 riot at an England v Republic of Ireland march in Dublin

"The thing that happened was premeditated - it wasn't as if something sparked it off, as these people turned up with the plan of disrupting the game and causing those awful scenes.

"We'd scored, we all went over to the far corner, delighted to have got the goal and then it became apparent as we were jogging back from the goal celebration that there was a problem."

The trouble was subsequently found to have been orchestrated by a far-right group known as Combat 18.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Fighting broke out during the first half of the match

The game had to be stopped by Dutch referee Dick Jol and the players were led to the safety of the dressing rooms, before the match was eventually abandoned.

More than 20 people were injured and 40 were arrested.

Colm Hanratty, a schoolboy at the time who had travelled to the game with friends, said the Republic of Ireland fans had been enjoying friendly banter with rival fans before the match but the atmosphere would soon become tense.

"You could see people putting on balaclavas, they were making Nazi references and pretending to shoot us - it was bizarre behaviour," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption UK press coverage of the 1995 football riot in Dublin

John Laverty of the Belfast Telegraph, who was reporting on the game, said even before the match started it was a volatile situation.

"I've been lucky enough to go to matches all across the world and this was the worst," he said.

"By the time the match kicked off there was a lot of drink taken, and the chanting continued - Rule Britannia drowned out both anthems before the match.

"Eight players in the Ireland team were English-born as was the manager Jack Charlton, and there were cries of 'Judas' every time one of them touched the ball."

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Image caption Newspapers in Dublin called it a 'shame'

Looking ahead to Sunday's match, current Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill said he was hoping to erase memories of the 1995 "debacle".

"It's still a big game but hopefully life has moved on since then," he said.

"It obviously has historic interest and it's a great game for us to be involved in."

Ahead of Sunday's game, England football fans who have been banned from matches faced additional enforcement measures to stop them travelling to the match.

UK police said they were taking action because of a "deterioration in fan behaviour" during England's last four away games.

Banned England fans had to sign in at a police station on match day, in addition to the usual requirement of surrendering their passports.

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