The Republic of Ireland's home match against Georgia tonight was briefly halted after a section of the crowd fired tennis balls onto the field.
Several players aided stewards in clearing tennis balls off the pitch just after the half-hour mark.
It was an act that had been rumoured prior to the tie and one RTE co-commentator Ronnie Whelan was highly critical of. It also provoked a split in the studio, with Richie Sadlier leaning towards the fans and their reasons for taking action.
These fans are angry and disillusioned for very legitimate reasons. They were feeling this way long before Mick McCarthy took the job. They feel if there is no meaningful change in the FAI at executive level and how it does its business they will continue to feel this way long after Mick leaves. We know he is leaving. It is a sign of how upset they are, how disgruntled they are, that they would turn up and do that.
On the other hand, Damien Duff suggested it was a distraction and hurt the teams' chances.
"I think it is ridiculous as well. I can't say we lost momentum because we scored off the resulting free-kick. Where they nearly scored at the end, that was three minutes in. There was four minutes added on, that was because of the tennis balls. For me, Georgia nearly scored because of our CEO."
'Georgia nearly scored because of our CEO'
Damien Duff is angry at the protest and angry at the reasons for the protest and points out the delay nearly resulted in a Georgia goal #irlgeo #irevgeo #rtesoccer https://t.co/2afD0dnj1z pic.twitter.com/sM5Tn6QsZO
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) March 26, 2019
The debate provoked a huge reaction online, with many debating the merits of protest that interferes with the playing time.
The stoppage was three minutes and immediately from the free-kick that restarted the game, midfielder Conor Hourihane scored. Speaking on Sky Sports, John O'Shea joked "the tennis balls might become a permanent fixture!"
— Richie Sadlier (@RichieSadlier) March 26, 2019