Town banned from Games after under-12 pitch invasion
CHILDREN from a small town have been banned from the Community Games after gardai had to be called to subdue angry supporters at an under-12s match.
Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, has been barred from the HSE-sponsored Community Games for one year after the incident during the national finals in Athlone, Co Westmeath.
A disciplinary hearing also handed down a five-year ban to the town's soccer teams.
Shocked volunteers have received a letter from the national body informing them of the suspensions, which will come into effect on October 1.
The ruling follows the angry scenes that marred the All-Ireland under-12 soccer final which Bagenalstown lost 1-0 to Castlebar, Co Mayo.
The Community Games said it would be making "no comment" as the matter was still "ongoing". Bagenalstown has now appealed the suspension, and the organisation won't be commenting until the final outcome is known.
The controversy stems from a red card given to a Bagenalstown player for a handball during a final, which was held in the grounds of Athlone Institute of Technology on August 14.
The referee also awarded Castlebar a penalty, which resulted in the only goal of the game.
Once the goal was scored, adult supporters watching from the sidelines allegedly launched a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse at the referee and other officials. Gardai had to be called as a pitch invasion ensued.
Players from both teams were not involved in any way, and were taken to dressing rooms while the adults continued to challenge the decision.
Some supporters marched on to the pitch to confront the referee at the end of the match. None of the local committee were involved, but now the children and volunteers have expressed dismay that they will suffer as a result of the actions of a handful of unruly supporters.
Bagenalstown has performed well at the Community Games over the years but the ban will be a massive setback to the area.
Dad-of-four Councillor Arthur McDonald said that as a parent who attended the community games for years he believed the punishment was "extreme".
"Considering it was supporters and not the children, it is draconian," he said.
"I have been saying for years that referees need to get themselves sorted out, children are children and the officials shouldn't be above criticism. I do say that parents and supporters too have to be careful what they say."
Mr McDonald said there was "a lot of anger" in Bagenalstown over the severity of the punishment.