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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Probe launched as garda is beaten unconscious in brawl at minor GAA game

Greg Harkin

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Det Gda Chris O’Neill (inset) was beaten unconscious as he attempted to protect a referee at Shamrock Gaels GAA pitch in Coola, Sligo (pictured)
Det Gda Chris O’Neill (inset) was beaten unconscious as he attempted to protect a referee at Shamrock Gaels GAA pitch in Coola, Sligo (pictured)
Det Gda Chris O’Neill

Gardaí have launched an investigation after an off-duty detective was beaten unconscious as he tried to protect a referee at an underage Gaelic football match.

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GAA authorities have moved quickly to condemn the violence.

Referee Joe Hynes
Referee Joe Hynes

Det Gda Chris O'Neill moved in to help referee Joe Hynes at the end of the Sligo A1 Minor Championship semi-final between Shamrock Gaels and Owenmore Gaels.

Owenmore won the game by two points to reach their first ever top-grade minor final, but some of their club members were upset that Mr Hynes had played eight minutes' additional time at the end of the game at Shamrock's Coola pitch. There had been 12 substitutions in the second half.

Det Gda O'Neill, a member of the Shamrock Gaels club, was among a number of people who went to escort Mr Hynes from the pitch as he was being verbally abused.

The referee, from the St Michael's club, escaped injury but the garda was allegedly punched.

Det Gda Chris O’Neill
Det Gda Chris O’Neill

After he fell to the ground it is alleged he was kicked repeatedly in the head, suffering a nasty ear injury. He also lost consciousness for a time.

The Sligo County Board says its Competitions Control Committee (CCC) is examining the referee's report and an investigation has been launched.

"It has to be condemned outright," said County Secretary Gerry O'Connor.

"There is no place for this sort of behaviour at any Gaelic games match. It is up to the CCC to decide what action will be taken next and I understand the gardaí are also involved in an investigation so advice will have to be taken on that.

"But whatever happens it has to be condemned from top to bottom."

Shamrock Gaels chairman Vincent Henry was at the game but left before the incident.

He said: "It appears that a man was injured escorting the referee off the pitch and that shouldn't have happened and should never, ever happen at a any football match. It's just wrong."

Owenmore Gaels said last night that it "condemned without reservation" any violence at Gaelic games matches.

The club said it had launched its own internal investigations into the incident.

"We do not condone violent behaviour in any way whatsoever," said a spokesman.

A Garda spokesman said: "Gardaí are investigating an assault of a man in his early 40s at Coola, Sooey, Riverstown, Co Sligo on September 2 at approximately 20:20."

Secretary of Sligo County Board Gerry O'Connor said the board hope the alleged victim makes a full recovery and said these incidents are "very rare".

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Mr O'Connor said: "We would hope the victim makes a full recovery.

"These incidents are very rare, even in the GAA in general.

"It's not publicity we would like to see coming our way.

He added: "I believe the assault, if the allegations are true, was at the higher end of the scale."

The CCC is also examining an alleged incident at an U16 boys game four days previously involving Eastern Harps and Shamrock Gaels following allegations of an altercation at that game.

Irish Independent

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