Referee and player attacked after Leinster final

July 11, 2010

Mark Ward of Meath is struck by a Louth supporter at the end of the Leinster SFC final game at Croke Park - INPHO
There were disgraceful scenes in the aftermath of the controversial ending to the Leinster SFC final at referee Martin Sludden was attacked by a number of fans and Meath's Mark Ward was struck in the face by a man wearing a Louth jersey.

The incidents occurred after Louth were defeated by an injury time Meath goal, which replays showed should have been ruled out because Joe Sheridan fell over the line.

Sludden allowed the goal after consultation with his umpires at the Canal End of the ground, a decision which infuriated both Louth players and supporters.

Following the final whistle supporters from both counties raced onto the field as a number of Louth players surrounded the official to complain about the winning goal.

As he neared the official's exit in the corner of the stands, between the Canal End and the Cusack Stand, Sludden was confronted by a number of irate Louth supporters. As two Garda tried to help him off the pitch television cameras showed two supporters elbowing and hitting the Tyrone referee, with him being pushed by others on a number of occasions. As he quickly headed for safety, missiles were thrown at him and a steward required medical attention as he lay prostrate on the pitch having been hit by a missile.

Indeed, only for the intervention of Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick who courageously tried to keep the errant fans away from the referee, the situation could have been far worse.

As the Royal County players celebrated on pitch a man wearing a Louth jersey struck Meath substitute Mark Ward in the face and was restrained by both Meath and Louth players.

Pat Spillane on RTE described the attacks as 'disgraceful and cowardly' and the GAA are set to launch an investigation into the behaviour of the small minority, whose behaviour was totally at odds with reputation and record of Louth's support.

GAA Stadium Director Peter McKenna told RTE radio that they would be reviewing the incidents and check to see what happened. He added that the first thing they will check is to see if they could have done anything better, but his first instinct was that they followed procedure fully.

"Certainly the scenes that were on TV at the end of the game where the referee was jostled by a supporter, while he still was officiating (were disturbing).

"We have full download of the footage from RTE. We will be examining it closely and we will be talking to people from that who have acted in an inappropriate way."

McKenna has also not ruled out going down the route of prosecutions via the Gardai.

"There are areas here where you are moving from unacceptible behaviour to actual loutish and I don't know if you would call it - anti social behaviour, which may require us to take prosecution."

As the game was a Leinster Council fixture and not one directly governed by the GAA nationally, a press statement is expected from the provincial body later, before any comment is made by national officials.

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