Gardai were forced to use pepper spray in a bid to subdue up to 30 troublemakers outside the grounds of Longford Town Football Club on Saturday evening, the Leader has learned.
The ugly scenes, which marred the start of the Midlanders’ fourth round clash with Bohemians, also resulted in one of the Dublin side’s stewards requiring hospital treatment after he was set upon by away supporters.
A spokesman for the seven time FAI Cup champions confirmed a member from its own stewarding team had been injured.
“He has had dental treatment today as he lost a tooth,” said the spokesperson. “He was one of two stewards that we provided because we were aware certain individuals that would be regarded as known troublemakers might turn up.”
It’s believed FAI executives alerted Bohemians officials prior to kick off that some of its fans, banned from attending club games, were likely to travel from Dublin for the fixture.
But as security staff prevented those likely to instigate trouble from entering the ground, at least a dozen fans who had already passed through the turnstiles ran back out as violence erupted. As a result, Gardai resorted to using pepper spray, much to the annoyance of Bohemians club officials.
“Some people who were inside managed to force open the gates with the intention of letting their associates in,” added the spokesperson. “Unfortunately, a lot of by-standers got caught up in it and got pepper sprayed. You have to ask why they (gardai) came with pepper spray? Is this really what you need when you are dealing with 25 people. We, as a club would be concerned that the response of the gardai was disproportianate.”
A statement from the Gardai confirmed that pepper spray was used by officers as a means of restoring order.
“We can confirm approximately 20-30 fans (were) causing disorder. (The) Regional Support Unit were present and used pepper spray,” revealed the statement, which also established that one man was brought to hospital for minor injuries.
Longford Town, who lost the game 3-1 despite leading at 1-0 during the first half, said the unsightly scenes had cast a shadow over the game.
“It’s a shame as it takes the good out the game,” said a club spokesperson.