Garda probe after angry fans attack referee

A FULL-SCALE Garda and GAA probe was under way last night after a Croke Park day of shame that could have wide-ranging implications for stadia security in this country.

Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna has pledged a wholesale review of the venue’s security operation after referee Martin Sludden was physically assaulted by spectators in the wake of a controversial Leinster football final.

The Tyrone official incorrectly allowed a last minute Meath goal which denied Louth their first provincial title in 53 years, and was set upon by furious Louth supporters before gardaí ushered him to the sanctity of the dressing room.

Mr McKenna confirmed the referee was “fairly shaken” after the incident.

TV footage will be used by gardaí and the GAA to identify culprits, but McKenna admitted: “I don’t know will we actually catch faces on that but, if we did, we certainly would (take action). There are areas here where you are moving from unacceptable behaviour to antisocial behaviour, which may require us to take prosecutions.”

He added: “That would certainly be a reaction from this incident. You would hope we can avoid that, but it seems to be more and more inevitable. What happened there today in any language is not right.”

GAA president Christy Cooney also called for a serious review of their match-day security after some of the worst breaches in living memory.

However the Meath player at the centre of the drama, Joe Sheridan, dismissed calls for the game to replayed. He said: “It was a definite goal. People can say I threw it, but I was in the net. I just dropped the ball and it was in the net, simple as that.

“A lad just pushed me, I tried to do what I could. I tried to hit it and the goal was given. It was as simple as that.”

One replay that will take place next weekend is the Munster hurling final between Cork and Waterford. A last-minute goal from Tony Browne snatched a draw for the Déise, who will look to finish the job next Saturday at Semple Stadium.


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