Reeling on the ropes over Abbeyleix fracas
Published 06/02/1999 | 00:11
FIANNA FÁIL hides behind ``the next meeting of the Parliamentary Party'' when trouble hits its shores.The GAA waits seven days for the endless wheels of discipline to turn in the meantime, attention is diverted away from the war zone by accusing the accursed media of ``blowing it out of all proportion.''
And so it was again this week: the hurlers of Laois and Dublin, ably assisted by a few frustrated Tysons on the terraces, beat the living daylights out of each other. And the media are to blame.
Despite the repeated denials issued by various sources over the past few days, a picture of complete mayhem continues to emerge from last Sunday's clash in Abbeyleix.
That ``no-one was seriously injured and they all got up to go work on Monday morning'' was touted throughout the week as an indication that Abbeyleix was nothing much to worry about.
Alas, for those whose concern it is to diminish the scale of the row, there was a very real sting in the tail yesterday when The Sun newspaper reported Dublin players, Brendan and Dave McLoughlin, had both been forced to miss work since last Sunday.
``My two sons took a beating. Dave's head was split open. There was blood pouring out of the top of his head while the fighting was going on,'' said an agitated Benny McLoughlin.
``He was up vomiting for two nights and has been out of work all week. You can see the hurley print on Brendan's face. It is still in an awful state.
``The lads were standing on the sideline when they were hit from behind by Laois supporters.''
McLoughlin's grim testimony is packaged in a threat of legal action against the Leinster Council, who allowed the game to go ahead on an unfenced pitch. Given that most divisional and county boards insist on pitches being properly fenced off for club matches, Abbeyleix shouldn't get a look in at inter-county level.
The only impediment to fans gaining access to the playing field was a blue rope. It might suffice for a leisurely summer Sunday watching the young ones go through their paces in a local Community Games finals, but not for inter-county hurling, not even in January, not ever.
McLoughlin Snr is concentrating his attack on the Leinster Council on the absence of the perimeter fence, which might have protected his sons, presuming their claim of being set upon by supporters is true.
If McLoughlin's portrayal of his son's welfare after their trip to Abbeyleix jars on the senses, there's more. One Dublin woman chilled listeners to Monday evening's Sportscall with this tale:
`` ... the next thing all hell broke loose ... about 30 Laois men ran down the hill ... and went in and started belting at the Dublin players. One player for Dublin, he was a sub, had blood running down the side of his face where a gentleman had hit him ...
`` ... there was mayhem down there ... I remarked to my husband, did you ever see anything like it? Most of these gentlemen were in their 40s and 50s, and a bit older I would say.
``After the match, all these gentlemen were coming along and saying `aw, we gave it to them, I got a good dig in at that fella, those auld Dubs'.''
On the same programme, presenter Des Cahill relayed the experience of another Dublin woman who ``saw her son being hit on the back of the head. She saw a Dublin player being beaten by Laois supporters.
``He left the field in her direction ... and three Laois men, aged about 40, tried to beat him up. She put her arms around him and told them they'd have to beat her up before they touched him.''
A whole host of witnesses, including callers to this office, spoke of hurleys being used freely as weapons. The CKR reporter at the game said hurleys were wielded ``with wild abandon.''
Among the facts established is that Laois player Declan Rooney was belted in the face with a hurley swung violently by a Dublin GAA figure present at the match. This man, clearly identifiable from the video, is set for a lengthy suspension, and there are murmurings that Dublin County Board might get in a pre-emptive strike by taking action themselves.