Linfield fans charged in connection with Setanta match trouble

Three Linfield football fans appeared in court today charged over trouble which flared at a cross-border cup match.

The game between the Belfast club and St Patrick’s Athletic in Dublin’s Inchicore was marred by ugly scenes before kick-off after scuffles broke out as stewards and gardai searched supporters.

The trio, who appeared at Kilmainham District Court, were charged with a series of public order offences and freed on bail.

Robert Ervin, aged 38, from Glencairn Pass, Belfast, 30-year-old William Rankin, from Alexander Park, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim were charged with being drunk and using threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour.

Stephen Smith, aged 35, from Carnhill Walk, also Carrickfergus, faced three public order charges including using threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour and failing to comply with garda orders.

The three were remanded on bail to reappear at the Kilmainham Court on May 14.

The minor disturbances, which left one Linfield supporter nursing a bloodied nose, broke out as several hundred fans made their way into the ground and gardaí carried out searches.

The three men had been removed from the Richmond Park football ground before kick-off and kept overnight in garda custody after the minor scuffles broke out.

A fourth man, who was also refused entry to the match and later arrested, had charges against him dismissed under the Probation Act.

The men had travelled to Dublin for the Setanta Sports Cup match with along with several hundred other Linfield fans.

Despite high hopes for the in-form Blues, St Pat’s secured a relatively easy 2-0 win.

A heavy security presence had been in place on the streets around Richmond Park amid fears groups not attending the match would attempt to spark violence among the fans.

The garda operation was intensified at full time with the riot squad, dog handlers and mounted officers maintaining a cordon outside the Inchicore club blocking fans from mingling and ensuring buses packed with Linfield supporters left within minutes of the final whistle.

St Pat’s fans had been ordered by gardai to stay in the ground for 10 minutes after full time to limit the risk of further trouble.

The trouble follows horrific street fights in Belfast city centre following a match between Linfield and Cliftonville at the end of March.

Up to 40 men attempted to storm a bar and in attacks which followed one man had his throat slashed.

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