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Chaos in Croke Park

CROKE Park chiefs today revealed a steward was levelled after being hit on the head by a flying bottle.

Stadium director Peter McKenna said several bottles were pelted in the direction of referee Martin Sludden as he was escorted off the pitch.

Several Louth supporters seen confronting the referee on the field can now expect a visit from gardai after RTE handed over footage of the chaos.

Pressure meanwhile grew on the Meath County Board to agree to a replay after the "goal-that-was-not-a-goal" which secured them the Leinster title.

The chaos on the field before and after the game has mired the GAA in controversy.

Mr Sludden was confronted angrily and struck on numerous occasions by Louth fans who burst on to the Croke Park turf yesterday after awarding an illegal goal to Meath four minutes into injury time.



Bundled

Meath centre-forward Joe Sheridan bundled the ball over the goal-line in a frenzied scramble that earned Meath a controversial two point victory on a score-line of Meath 1-12 Louth 1-10, shattering Louth hopes for a first Leinster title in 53 years.

The goal was put over the goal-line illegally and should have been disallowed, sparking calls for a replay.

There were no arrests following the incidents but the gardai have said that they will pursue any complaints made.

Mr Sludden had to be escorted off the field by gardai as he was engulfed by fans from the Wee county.

Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick and many of his players had to step in between Mr Sludden and fans. A stadium steward was also treated for injuries after he was struck in the back of the head by a bottle that was thrown at the referee during the melee.

Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna revealed that the injured steward and Mr Sludden were "very shaken".

He went to say that legislation may have to be introduced to regulate pitch invasions from violent supporters.

"You would hope we can avoid that but it seems to be more and more inevitable."

He said the authorities would study the RTE footage and appropriate action would be taken against any wrongdoers identified. He expects the gardai to lead the investigation.

GAA spokesman Alan Milton said that the conduct of disgruntled supporters would not be tolerated in the future.

"No amateur referee should be put through that," he said.

The GAA has said that it will conduct a review of its security protocols and has also launched a 'root and branch" investigation to ensure there is no repeat of yesterday's violent scenes.

It is highly unlikely that a replay will be fixed by the GAA despite calls from fans right across the country.

Meath County Board chairman Bernard Allen drew comparisons with yesterday's incident and Thierry Henry's infamous handball last November in Paris, suggesting that Meath may not be open to offering a replay to the Louth men.

"Ireland didn't get a replay when France got a lucky goal," Mr Allen said.

GAA president Christy Cooney said he would wait on Mr Sludden's report before deciding on a course of action.

hnews@herald.ie


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