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Referee assault inquiry goes on as three players are handed 40-year bans

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Injured ref Daniel Sweeney

Injured ref Daniel Sweeney

Injured ref Daniel Sweeney

Three footballers were each banned from the game for 40 years yesterday over the assault on referee Daniel Sweeney - as gardai said inquiries were continuing.

A fourth man involved in the incident on November 11 had an existing lifetime playing ban extended to include all soccer-related activity.

Mr Sweeney was taken to hospital for treatment following the attack by Mullingar Town players in a car park after their away match with Horseleap in Co Offaly.

The 50-year-old referee suffered serious injuries to his jaw, cheekbone and nose.

A garda spokesman said last night that no arrests had yet been made in relation to the assault and that investigations were ongoing.

The Combined Counties Football League (CCFL) said that three players involved in the incident had been banned from all football activity for 40 years each.

A fourth man, who was a spectator at the match having previously received a lifetime ban from playing, has had this ban extended to include all football-related activity, the CCFL said.

In a statement the CCFL added that Mullingar Town must have three match officials in attendance at all remaining games this season.

The club, who must also appoint an independent liaison officer to assist match officials at home and away games, was fined €500.

Violence

This fine was handed down because of the failure of the club to control their players and supporters.

The money paid will be passed on to the Daniel Sweeney recovery fund.

The CCFL went on to describe the assault on Mr Sweeney as "unprovoked, unwarranted and unjustifiable", and declared that the level of violence was "unprecedented".

In the aftermath of the incident, Mr Sweeney said he had questioned whether he should continue refereeing.

"I'm feeling sore to be honest. I'm feeling sore where I have my injuries," he said in a video message recorded after the incident. "But look, I'm getting on with it.

"It certainly makes you question should I be refereeing when you feel you're not properly protected. So it makes you question whether refereeing is for you."

Mr Sweeney also said he was brought up as a man of faith and holds no grudges toward those who attacked him.

"My main message is to say to the individuals involved, I bear no animosity whatsoever for what happened. Actually, I forgive you for what happened," he said.

"What would I like to see out of this at the end of the day? I would like to see the day that a referee can go on to a football field, feel safe and be safe."

Earlier this week, Mullingar Town apologised to Mr Sweeney over the attack and added that the club did not "condone or promote the actions that occurred".

Following a meeting between FAI officials and the Irish Soccer Referees' Society, tougher sanctions are to be introduced relating to assaults on match officials.


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