Irish soccer team caught up in armed raid on Dublin hotel
An armed raider fired a shotgun blast into the ceiling of a north Co Dublin hotel last evening a short distance from where the Irish soccer team were having an evening meal, write Emmet Malone and Seán MacConnell
During the incident, the national squad's security manager, Mr Derek McGuinness, protected a number of children who had been in the lobby of the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Club seeking autographs from the players.
Garda reports said the incident began at 6.36 p.m. when two armed and masked men burst into the lobby of the hotel where the team is staying before their friendly game with Canada tomorrow.
An eye-witness said a number of children and their parents had been waiting in the lobby when the raiders entered demanding money.
Mr McGuinness, who was praised for his actions by the Football Association of Ireland's chief executive, Mr Fran Rooney, told the children to lie on the floor and look away from the raiders. Members of the press were also in the lobby and dived for cover.
Mr McGuinness also asked the armed men not to harm the children and protected them while one of the raiders vaulted the hotel's reception desk to get whatever cash was available, estimated to be about €1,000.
As the raiders escaped, one of them fired a single shot from what appears to have been a shotgun into the ceiling of the foyer.
The incident lasted less than one minute but those in the lobby were extremely distressed and some women and children broke down.
The Garda report said the men had left the scene in the company of a third raider who was driving the getaway vehicle, a red BMW. The area was sealed off and gardaí preserved the scene for forensic examination.
Mr Rooney said it was "very unfortunate" that the incident had happened at a time when the players were staying at the hotel.
"Thank God, no one was hurt and I am very pleased with the reports of how our security staff behaved during the incident.
"It appears the incident was totally unrelated to the fact that the team was staying here at the time."
Some of the Irish players had been in the foyer just minutes before the incident, having given a press conference with manager Brian Kerr, but all had gone one floor down to the dining room for dinner.
A number of the players made their way to their bedrooms immediately following the robbery, using a back entrance, which meant they were able to avoid going through the hotel foyer.
Mr Kerr said late last night that there would be no review of security for the Irish team following the incident which he said would not effect the team's plans. The team would continue to use the hotel.
He explained that most of the team had been sitting down in the restaurant on the floor below the foyer and they had heard a loud noise and "a schmozzle" but did not go up to investigate.
He joked that when they were told what had happened, some of the team did run out the back and "some of them may have been moving faster than he had seen for some time".
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