Westmeath referee Sean Carroll and some of his officials were surrounded by players from St Mary’s College — a teacher training college in Belfast.
St Mary’s had a chance to level the match with a last gasp 45 from their goalkeeper Niall Morgan in the second minute of stoppage time, but the kick was short and the full-time whistle sounded with St Mary’s in possession and poised for an equaliser.
Referee Carroll and two of his umpires were surrounded and confronted by several players as they made their way from the pitch, and were verbally abused.
At the final whistle, St Mary’s players and officials pulled their colleagues away as the referee and match officials left the pitch in the NUIG grounds at Dangan to make their way along a laneway a couple of hundred metres from the dressing rooms.
However, moments later several players, some of them urging their colleagues to “calm down, calm down”, followed and they ran through the laneway which was crowded with supporters making their way home.
Some players tried to get into the area where the match officials were changing but were prevented by officials. They demanded to see the referee and shouted abuse at they tried to get in a door to the referee’s rooms.
St Mary’s College manager Paddy Tally, who said that he did not witness the incidents at the referee’s dressing room afterwards, said that his players believed there was still 30 seconds remaining when the final whistle blew.
“It is just so disappointing after such a fantastic effort over the past few months,” said Tally.
The secretary of the Higher Education Council, Mike McMahon, said they would wait for the report from match referee Sean Carroll before proceeding.
“We will follow procedure and wait for the referee’s report and then decide what action is to be taken,” said McMahon, who was present.
NUIG’s goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan produced a stunning save to deny Michael Stephenson in the dying moments. Carroll then blew for full-time, prompting disgraceful scenes. The Westmeath official dished out six bookings during a competitive but not especially fractious game where the standard never rose above mediocre. NUIG were reduced to 14 men just before half-time after Kieran Conroy picked up a second yellow card.
NUIG led 0-4 to 0-1 at the break but had it all to do against the wind in the second-half. Neil Douglas landed two frees in the opening half and Jason Doherty, who missed a good goal chance along with Kerry native Ian Galvin both kicked points.
Benny Herron landed St Mary’s only score of the opening half.
St Mary’s and Dungannon Swifts soccer goalkeeper Morgan produced a superb save to deny Doherty just after the restart, with points from Herron and Peter Harte reducing the deficit to the minimum after 35 minutes.
Douglas kicked a very good point from play and then added a free from the left to make it 0-6 to 0-3 after 42 minutes, but they did not score after that. Stephenson reduced the lead and Niall Sludden left just the minimum between them with seven minutes remaining but they could not fashion an equaliser.
Scorers for NUIG: N Douglas (0-4, 3fs); J Doherty and I Galvin 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Mary’s, Belfast: B Herron (0-2); P Harte; N Sludden; M Stephenson 0-1 each.
NUIG: D O’Sullivan (Limerick); G Sweeney (Galway), D Gavin (Mayo), K McDonald (Tipperary); J Moore (Galway), J Maloney (Offaly), R Kiely (Tipperary); S Guing (Offaly), S Moran (Leitrim); F Deasmhunaigh (Cork), S Gilmartin (Sligo), K Conroy (Mayo); N Douglas (Mayo), J Doherty (Mayo), I Galvin (Kerry).
Subs: R Rochford (Mayo) for Moore, 17; C Griffin (Sligo) for Galvin, 42; D Newcombe (Mayo) for Deasmhnaigh, 51; K Conlon (Leitrim) for Guing, 55.
ST MARY’S, BELFAST: N Morgan (Tyrone); M Slane (Tyrone), M Murray (Armagh), D McBride (Tyrone); G Teague (Tyrone), E McArdle (Armagh), C O’Hara (Tyrone); B Doyle (Derry), S O’Neill (Tyrone); J Gilmore (Tyrone), B Herron (Derry), D McCusker (Fermanagh); R Sexton (Down), P Harte (Tyrone), N Sludden (Tyrone).
Sub: M Stephenson (Armagh) for Gilmore, 42.
Referee: S Carroll (Westmeath).