Saturday 17 March 2018

Racism accusations fly as GAA star claims opponents used N-word on pitch

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE GAA has been plunged into a racism row after Crossmaglen Rangers full-forward Aaron Cunningham alleged that he was the target of abuse during yesterday's Ulster senior club football final with Kilcoo at the Athletic Grounds.

The Ulster Council moved swiftly to issue a statement acknowledging the allegations and promising to investigate the matter.

An incensed Cunningham claimed that he was racially abused twice by Kilcoo opponents in the course of a high-tension game which the Armagh champions won by six points.

"During the game I got a bit of racial abuse from Kilcoo. You go out to play football in a good, sporting manner and hard-hitting and that. When race comes into it, I think it's disgusting," said Cunningham.

"I don't want to let it overshadow what has been a good game and a 10th Ulster title for us but I just feel that it has to be highlighted, because what was said has no place on a football pitch. I don't want to repeat it but the N-word was used.

"The linesman was standing 10 yards away; I can't say if he heard it or not, he said he didn't. I told him what was said and I just felt it was absolutely disgusting.

"In the heat of the championship game when these things are said to you, it does rile you.

"I would never, ever call anybody by their creed or their race or anything like that. I was just disgusted to hear it but it will not dampen the celebrations. I just had to make it known that it was said."

Crossmaglen manager Tony McEntee said Cunningham had shown great restraint but added that the club would not be pursuing the matter.

"I'm not going to make an issue of it nor do I want an issue of it, nonetheless he knows what animated him. It's something that maybe happened his father before and it shouldn't happen," he said.

Kilcoo said last night saying they were "shocked and saddened to hear of any allegations of racial abuse following the Ulster Club Final" and promised to co-operate fully with any investigation.

The quick intervention by the Ulster Council proves how seriously they have taken the allegations. Their initial investigation could involve interviewing Cunningham, seeking the names of those who he alleges racially abused him. If he identifies those involved, they will face a probe which could result in suspension.

Meanwhile, Henry Shefflin will undergo additional tests to establish the damage sustained to his ankle in Saturday's Leinster club hurling semi-final after an X-ray confirmed no bones were broken.

Irish Independent

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