Police begin investigation into GAA pitch invasion in Omagh

Dungannon Clarkes' historic victory over Trillick sparked a pitch invasion at Healy Park in Omagh, Co Tyrone Credit: INPHO

A police investigation is underway into potential breaches in coronavirus regulations due to a pitch invasion at a GAA club final in Co Tyrone.

Crowds raced onto the field of play at Healy Park in Omagh in the wake of Dungannon Clarkes’ victory over Trillick.

Dungannon had waited 64 years to become Tyrone football champions, securing Sunday’s win in a dramatic penalty shootout.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Ryan Henderson said: “We are aware of an incident at a GAA match in Omagh yesterday and will be reviewing 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.”

First Minister Arlene Foster was among those who had expressed concern, saying “sport and health will be the losers” and that “serious questions” had arisen from videos posted on social media.

Health Minister Robin Swann also said the scenes were “disappointing”.

However, he credited the GAA for developing Covid-19 return-to-play guidance – along with rugby and soccer authorities - and said the events in Omagh were not in keeping with what the organisation was trying to achieve.

"On sight of what we've actually seen and what was actually produced widely across social media, I don't think that in any way is in keeping with what those sporting codes and those bodies would expect of some of their players and definitely not of their supporters,” he said.

In a statement, Ulster GAA said it was strongly reiterating the message that no spectators should enter the field of play.

The organisation pointed to protocols being adhered to at the majority of events, but noted that the incident in Omagh “not only breached GAA protocols but, and much more significantly, public health guidelines”.

The statement noted: “Ulster GAA fully realises that this was a moment of great joy for the Dungannon Clarkes Club in winning their first county title since 1956 and congratulations to them on this 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.”

It continued: “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.”