Saturday 13th March saw over 700 Glentoran supporters travel to Dublin for their club's Setanta Cup match with Bohemian FC. It was to be a day to remember unfortunately not for the football, but for the needless violence leading to up to, and during, the game itself.
The only known cause for the inflammatory response by the 'Guards' in calling in the riot squad?
Flags. What else?
Whilst one or two Ulster Flags/Union Flags could be spotted amongst the away crowd, and easily five Irish tricolours in the home end might I add, the offending flag that really got the old bill's knickers in a twist was a big green, red & black tricolour - coincidentally, the colours of Glentoran FC.
Please note that it wasn't until the second half that this flag was reinstated amid fears of another mini-riot, like this one...
And like the red of a St Patricks Athletic shirt to a raging bull, many within the Jody Stand of Dalymount Park which held the away support, a direct confrontation between Glentoran fans and the 'Guards' had been firmly established. Heavy-handed batons were yielded to those who dared question the reasoning behind the removal of their flags. I thought scenes like this were only acted out in flashpoint areas of Northern Ireland? Surely not over the border too?
Haven't an Garda Síochána learnt anything from 30 years of violence up North? A hostile police force creates a hostile atmosphere. This wasn't a high risk Old Firm game. It was Glentoran vs Bohemians playing what was essentially a 'nothing' game as Boh's had already progressed to the final stages of the tournament.
An Garda Síochána roughly translates as 'Guardians of the peace'. God help the poor lad (above) on the receiving end of such peace. It's a shame they didn't guard this peace instead of inflame tensions with their over-zealous actions. Actions that I am informed even had the home fans looking on disbelief at what had kicked off - excuse the pun.
A bad taste was left in the mouth at the end for many fans' excursion down South from the trouble that ensued, perhaps even more-so than their club's exit from the all-Ireland club cup. And needless to say, it certainly made a mockery of my pre-match assurances to the various Glenmen that there would be no trouble at all. The scuffle outside The Bohemian Bar between the 10 or 15 'Ultras' from both teams looked minuscule in comparison to the unexpected riot police threat.
Then again, was it really to be that unexpected?