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Suspects in savage match attack on ref identified by gardai

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Midlands referee Daniel Sweeney is still undergoing treatment for his injuries

Midlands referee Daniel Sweeney is still undergoing treatment for his injuries

Midlands referee Daniel Sweeney is still undergoing treatment for his injuries

The suspects for a savage assault on a referee in an amateur adult soccer match have been identified, with gardai expecting arrests imminently.

Midlands referee Daniel Sweeney was hospitalised with a number of serious facial injuries after being attacked in a car park following a match in Offaly on Sunday morning.

He is believed to have been attacked by three players and a spectator after the clash between Horseleap and Mullingar Town in the Combined Counties Football League (CCFL).

It is understood gardai are following a definite line of inquiry and have interviewed a number of eyewitnesses as part of their investigation.

Deterrent

Irish Soccer Referees' Society (ISRS) president Paul O'Brien said the match was abandoned by Mr Sweeney following an incident, which carried on into the car park.

Mr Sweeney was last night still undergoing treatment for his injuries, having been taken from Tullamore Hospital to St James's Hospital in Dublin.

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

Mr O'Brien said he has been in contact with FAI chief executive John Delaney over the issue and the ISRS will meet with senior FAI officials this week, followed by a meeting with Mr Delaney.

"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," Mr O'Brien 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 headbutt 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 abuse of referees on social media also needed to be looked at.

CCFL chairman Sean Montgomery said those involved would receive lifetime bans and the club would be issued a significant fine.

"There will be no stone unturned in terms of how we deal with this. It is completely and utterly unacceptable," he said.

Paul Malone, secretary of the referees' midlands branch, said officials were an easy target.

He called for criminal sanctions against the offenders.

Mr Malone said the league had to be strong on punishment and also called for lifetime bans to be issued to anyone involved.

Jail

"It's an absolute disgrace," he said.

"It needs to be clamped down on and it's getting worse. Anyone who did this damage to Daniel, I hope they get jail."

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

The Leinster Senior League (LSL) has also issued an appeal for respect of players and match officials.

Chairman David Moran said "it simply has to stop" when speaking at the league's management meeting last week.

"Clubs have got to take responsibility and police their matches in a more vigilant way," he said.

"Clubs have been warned and the LSL will not be found wanting in ensuring that the game is protected and cleaned up."


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