Sunday 15 September 2019

Gardaí ready to arrest key suspects over savage attack on soccer ref

Referee Daniel Sweeney after the incident in Horseleap, Co Offaly, on Sunday
Referee Daniel Sweeney after the incident in Horseleap, Co Offaly, on Sunday

Ryan Nugent and Ken Foy

Gardaí have identified suspects and expect to make arrests following an alleged assault of a referee in an amateur adult soccer match.

Midlands referee Daniel Sweeney was hospitalised with a number of facial injuries following the alleged attack in a car park following a match in Co Offaly on Sunday morning.

He is believed to have been assaulted by three Mullingar Town players and a spectator after the club's away clash with Horseleap in the Combined Counties Football League (CCFL).

It is understood that gardaí are following a definite line of inquiry and have interviewed a number of eye-witnesses as part of their investigation.The scene of the alleged attack was also examined yesterday.

Mr Sweeney underwent further treatment and examination last night for his injuries.

It is understood he was taken from Tullamore Hospital to St James's Hospital and subsequently to the Eye and Ear Hospital.

He suffered a suspected broken jaw along with damage to his eye socket and his cheekbone, and he had to get stitches on his nose after the alleged assault.

President of the Irish Soccer Referees Society (ISRS) Paul O'Brien said he had been in contact with FAI CEO John Delaney over the issue.

"Obviously, we'll be sitting down with them. He's promised me he'll sit down with me after that meeting, early next week presumably, and we can discuss this," he said.

"In terms of what we want out of this, first of all we never want to see it again, but we believe that a deterrent has to be put in place to ensure this doesn't happen again. We have to look at the suspensions for players that do this.

"We want that reviewed and we want to be included in the discussions in how we overcome this. If I push a referee that's the minimum, or I could head-butt a referee and still get a year, so what we need to do is we need to look at defining assaults."

Mr O'Brien said that abuse of referees on social media needs to also be looked into.

Chairman of the Combined Counties Football League Seán Montgomery said those involved would receive lifetime bans and the club would be issued a significant fine.

He said: "There will be no stone unturned in terms of how we deal with this.

"It is completely and utterly unacceptable."

The latest incident comes following a warning by the Dublin District Schoolboys League (DDSL) over incidents of violence in matches.

And the Leinster Senior League has also issued an appeal for respect for players and match officials following a number of recent incidents.

Irish Independent

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