Dublin and Mayo have had many famous battles down the years that have thrown up some unforgettable moments. Most of those memories involve some great individual battles, sublime scores and epic nail biting finishes. But the meeting between theses two great rivals in the 2006 All Ireland Semi-Final will be remembered for two things, the fightback from Mayo to clinch a one point victory and of course the infamous ‘Hillgate’ incident.
A full house in Croke Park anticipated a full blooded encounter and they got it even before the ball was thrown in for the start of the game. Mayo were first out onto the pitch, they lined up for the team photo and after that was concluded to everyone amazement headed to the Hill 16 end of the pitch to warm up. They were met by a vociferous Dublin support on the Hill (these were the days before the Mayo Fill The Hill campaigns).
This juvenile gesture from Mayo raised the decibel levels of an already noisy Dublin support on Hill 16 and the atmosphere reached boiling point. Everyone waited with baited breath to see what the response would be from the Dubs when the entered the field of battle. Would they be left confused as to what to do, would they just ignore it and head down to the other end of the pitch and go through their warm-up, not a chance.
Dublin delayed coming out and then poured out onto the Croke Park surface and headed for the bench over at the Cusack Stand for the team photo. When those pleasantries were concluded and led by the Ciaran Whelan the whole squad marched like an invading army to the Hill. They applauded the massed ranks in navy and blue and then all hell broke loose.
Both sides refused to budge and clashes broke out among both sets of players and their respective management teams. Both sides peppered the goal with practice shots and with so many footballs flying around and it didn’t take long before it took it’s toll and one of the Mayo backroom team was knocked unconscious. The mayhem finally concluded when both sides had to line-up for the parade behind the Artane Band.
That incident led to the GAA for future games appointing teams an end of the ground for their warm-up to avoid a repeat of the mayhem that ensued that day. Would Mayo risk what would probably be a hefty fine for breaking protocol this coming Sunday and again head to the Hill to try and upset Jim Gavin’s men, probably not, but who knows, we will just have to wait and see.