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EDITIONS
Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 01:34 GMT
'A symbolic encounter'
Action from the match
Northern police force had been banned from playing

Police from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic played their first Gaelic football match on Wednesday.

Like all good teams, there was a mix of youth and experience.

The fledgling Police Service of Northern Ireland jogged nervously onto the pitch at the Garda Sports Centre in Dublin.

Their opponents were a well-honed Gardai side.

Trophy
The Gardai won by seven points
It was an historic day. A year after the GAA lifted their controversial ban on security forces playing, the PSNI team made a shaky but impressive start.

Last November, the GAA voted in favour of scrapping Rule 21 - the second time a vote had taken place on the issue.

As the PSNI came into being, it was a seismic shift in fiercely held positions and paved the way for Wednesday's symbolic encounter.

For security reasons, the PSNI team was not named.

'Different backgrounds'

Despite the huge progress that allowed the game to take place, sensitivities still remain.

The PSNI team - made up of veteran players and new recruits - put up a good fight.

They trailed by just a few points until half time and despite a last minute push, the Gardai won by seven points.

The final score was 1 goal 18 points to 2 goals 8 points.


It is yet another move forward in the peace process

Chief Constable Hugh Orde
Police Service of Northern Ireland
The chairman of the new PSNI GAA club, Brian McCargo, was proud of his men.

"Our squad consists of players of varying ages, different skill levels and sporting backgrounds, but probably more importantly, they come from both communities.

"That is what sport is all about. We faced a massive challenge to build an entire club from nothing in such a short space of time.

"We have a long way to go but we are getting there."

The Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, who watched from the sidelines, said: "The reality is it will take time to get fully integrated.

"The most important thing is that the team was here, and they played.

"It is yet another move forward in the peace process."

'One step forward'

The match was not open to the public, but a crowd of about 150 gathered to watch history being made.

Among them were Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy and Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell.

The post-match press conference was dominated by news of the IRA statement outlining their suspension of contact with the weapons Decommissioning Commission.

Action from the match
The PSNI team came from both communities
"I'm disappointed, but like all these movements towards peace, it's one step forward maybe half a step backwards," Hugh Orde told reporters.

At the end of the game, the Garda Siochana victors were presented with the McCarthy Cup, named after a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who was one of the founders of the GAA.

Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne said he was delighted with the Gardai's victory.

"Well you did get the Sam Maguire, so we're happy with this," a quip to the gallant losers on the PSNI team - a few of whom were from Armagh.

Rule 21

Latest news

The background
See also:

30 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Nov 01 | N Ireland
16 Nov 01 | N Ireland
12 Nov 01 | N Ireland
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