A Loyalist massacre of Catholic supporters as they watched Ireland’s 1994 World Cup win over Italy from Giants Stadium in New York in their local bar is to feature in ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series.
The June 18 1994 massacre was widely seen as an effort to end the Irish peace process which was reaching its climax at the time with major efforts
to bring about an IRA ceasefire
The atmosphere around the game is described in the ESPN promo “The sense of optimism is infectious. The Celtic Tiger is in its infancy, Bill Clinton’s decision to grant a visa to Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams has propelled the peace process forward and Jack Charlton’s team are walking onto the pitch before 75,000 fervent spectators made up of Irish, Italians and Americans of Irish and Italian decent.
“Amongst the fans is Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds who is sitting with members of an American group who’ve been working behind-the-scenes to end the conflict in Northern Ireland.”
The sports network commissioned the documentary on the Loughinisland Massacre when six soccer fans lost their lives.
Two loyalist gunmen burst into the tiny Heights Bar in the County Down village at the start of the second-half and opened fire randomly.
The six deaths sparked outrage on both sides of the community in Ulster and worldwide and weeks later Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries announced a ceasefire.
Irish soccer fans were stunned by the breaking news as they celebrated Ray Houghton’s goal in the famous 1-0 win over the Italians at the Giants Stadium.
Ireland’s Football Association came in for heavy criticism at the time when they declined requests that their players wear black armbands as a mark of respect in their second World Cup game with Mexico.
They did eventually mark the occasion but only year’s later before a Euro 2012 game against Italy in Poland on the 18th anniversary of the tragedy.
The ESPN programme, part of a 10 show series ahead of this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil, will examine the Loughinisland massacre and its effects on the peace process.
A statement from ESPN said: “New Jersey, June 18, 1994. Giants Stadium is awash with green as Irish soccer fans arrive to watch Ireland’s opening World Cup match against the mighty Italy.“The electrifying mood is shared by the supporters watching the match in the Heights Bar, a tiny pub in the Northern Irish village of Loughinisland, 24 miles south of Belfast.
“At the half, the Irish are remarkably ahead 1-0. Shortly after the second half begins, two masked gunmen belonging to a Protestant terror group burst into the Heights Bar.
“Thirty rounds are fired and six innocent men watching a soccer match were killed. Ceasefire Massacre will reveal how the juxtaposition of the jubilation felt inside Giants Stadium against the horrors of what happened in the Heights Bar, encapsulated the mood of the time.
“After 25-years of conflict, Ireland and her people longed for peace and prosperity but the brutalities of the violence in the North were never far from the surface.
“The gunning down of innocent men as they watched a soccer match marked both a low-point and a turning-point in the Northern Ireland conflict; one that would ultimately contribute to the paramilitaries on both sides calling ceasefires just weeks later.”
The 30 for 30 series has been critically acclaimed and ESPN executives have promised a high profile soccer series ahead of the World Cup with the Hillsborough disaster in England also on the subject list.
The latest ESPN 30 for 30: Soccer Stories series will include a mix of standalone feature-length and 30-minute-long documentary films from an award winning group of filmmakers telling compelling narratives from around the international soccer landscape.
The Yahoo news site reports that, in addition, a collection of 10 vignettes about Brazil’s rich culture will be featured throughout ESPN’s FIFA World Cup programming.
Connor Schell, VP of ESPN Films and Original Content, said: “With ESPN being the home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we know that sports fans will be looking forward to high quality content focused on what is perhaps the world’s most revered sport.
“We feel this is the perfect time to expand upon the success of our 30 for 30 series by focusing this collection on some of the incredible stories of soccer’s legendary past.”