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Thursday 8 December 2016

Garda helping GAA ref off pitch 'kicked unconscious' in row

Detective Garda Chris O’Neill who was kicked in the head as he helped referee Joe Hynes off the pitch
Detective Garda Chris O’Neill who was kicked in the head as he helped referee Joe Hynes off the pitch

Gardai have launched an investigation after an off-duty detective was beaten unconscious as he tried to protect a referee at an under-age Gaelic football match.

GAA authorities have moved quickly to condemn the incident.

Det Gda Chris O'Neill moved in to help referee Joe Hynes at the end of the Sligo A1 Minor Championship semi-final between Shamrock Gaels and Owenmore Gaels.

Owenmore won the game by two points to reach their first-ever top grade minor final, but some of their club members were upset that Mr Hynes had played eight minutes additional time at the end of the game at Shamrock's Coola pitch.

Abused

However, one neutral observer said the referee had been "perfect" throughout the match and had "correctly" added the time because of 12 substitutions and other stoppages.

Det Gda O'Neill, a member of the Shamrock Gaels club, was among a number of people who went to escort Mr Hynes from the pitch as he was being verbally abused.

The referee, from the St Michael's club, escaped injury but the garda was allegedly punched.

After he fell to the ground it is alleged he was kicked repeatedly in the head, suffering an injury to his ear.

He also lost consciousness for a time. The Sligo County Board said its Competitions Control Committee (CCC) was examining the referee's report and an investigation had been launched.

"It has to be condemned outright," said County Secretary Gerry O'Connor.

"There is no place for this sort of behaviour at any Gaelic games match.

"It is up to the CCC to decide what action will be taken next and I understand the gardai are also involved in an investigation, so advice will have to be taken on that.

"But whatever happens it has to be condemned from top to bottom, simple as that."

Shamrock Gaels chairman Vincent Henry, who was at the game, said: "I didn't see what happened because I left straight after the final whistle. I was on my way home and got a call to go back but by the time I got there, it (the altercation) was all over.

"It appears that a man was injured escorting the referee off the pitch and that shouldn't have happened, and should never ever happen at any football match. It's just wrong."

Owenmore Gaels said it "condemned without reservation" any violence at GAA matches.

A spokesman said an internal inquiry was under way at the club.

It's understood the county board is also investigating a second incident at the Shamrock Gaels club following an U16 game against Eastern Harps four days earlier.

A Garda spokesman told the Herald: "Gardai are investigating an assault of a man in his early 40s at Coola, Sooey, Riverstown, Co Sligo on September 2, at approx 20.20."

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