Gardaí have said no arrests have yet been made as they investigate an incident in which an off-duty officer was beaten unconscious as he sought to protect a referee at the end of a minor Gaelic football match.
The incident occurred at the end of the Sligo A1 Minor Championship semi-final last Friday between Owenmore Gaels and Shamrock Gaels.
Det Garda Chris O’Neill was struck as he was assisting the referee, Joe Hynes, to leave the field after Owenmore’s win.
Both clubs have condemned the incident and the Sligo County Board is also conducting an investigation into the episode.
In a statement on its website and social media platforms, Owenmore Gaels said: “Following the minor match in Coola on Friday night September 2nd the club would like to emphasise it does not condone the scenes that followed.
“We are carrying out our own investigation and are awaiting the findings of the CCC and referees report.”
It said it was also conducting an investigation into the incident.
It is understood the report into the game has not yet been provided to the Competition Controls Committee (CCC) but that it is likely to be submitted this week.
GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, speaking in Bishopstown, Cork, last night, said: “It’s horrible. Any incident where there’s violence either on a GAA pitch or on a main street is wrong. You can never use enough words of condemnation on things like that.
“I’m completely committed to the respect campaign in the GAA. We run hundreds, thousands of games. We have very few incidents but there shouldn’t be any. So it’s not good enough to say that it rarely happens. It’s one in a few but one is too many.
Gerry O’Connor, the secretary of the Sligo County Board, said the referee’s report would play a role in any investigation into what he described as “a very serious incident”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland he said: “It’s not publicity that we would like to see coming our way, but it is very unfortunate that it did happen.”
He said this type of incident was “very rare indeed” and everyone hoped the victim made a full recovery. He said he was not sure of the details of the incident: “I believe that the assault was very, if the allegations are true, it was on the higher end of the scale, it was certainly pretty vicious, but it all has to be investigated yet.”
Despite the match resulting in Owenmore Gaels making its first ever county final, it is understood that there is no footage of the incident. Gardaí said yesterday that its investigation is continuing, led by officers in Ballymote garda station.
The Garda Representative Association said it would not be commenting on the assault in Sligo but it passed on its best wishes to Det Garda O’Neill and wished him a full and speedy recovery.
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