Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Match shelved due to sectarian tension

Two football clubs in Ballymena were forced to call off a game at the weekend amid growing sectarian tensions in the town.



The crunch Saturday Morning League match between Broadway Celtic, from the town's predominantly nationalist north end, and Harryville Homers, from the loyalist Harryville area, was axed after an alleged sectarian attack in the town on Friday afternoon.

In 2005, a match between the two clubs was called off by league bosses after claims that the UDA was going to disrupt the game.

On this occasion the clubs took a joint decision to call off Saturday's game amid fears sectarian tensions could spill over.

Ballymena Saturday Morning League secretary Brian Montgomery said the decision to cancel was taken as a precaution.

He said: "The two clubs took the decision to call the game off and then came to me to tell me it was off.

"As far as I know Harryville Homers approached Broadway Celtic because of concerns they had. There were rumours that there might be disruption. I have since checked these out and it may be that these rumours may not have been as strong as first thought."

The football boss said great strides have been made to reduce sectarian tension in the town.

He added: "We have worked hard to solve the problems encountered before.

"This could have been a step back, but we avoided that. To be honest, I don't think there would have been any problems if the game had gone ahead."

In 2005, Ballymena Saturday Morning League scrapped two games amid fears the UDA was intent on causing trouble.

In May of the same year, a youth team from the mainly Catholic village of Carnlough pulled out of a Ballymena league after their minibus was attacked following a match in the mainly loyalist Ballykeel estate in Ballymena.

A spokesman for the PSNI said police are aware that the Harryville Homers-Broadway Celtic game was called off. However, a spokesperson said they were unaware of the reason why the game was cancelled.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old Ballymena man has been remanded on £500 bail after appearing in the town's magistrates court on Saturday charged with GBH.

Sean Paul McManus, of Devenagh Way, was ordered not to contact anyone connected with the case or enter the Ballykeel estate.

The charge arose from an incident in the town's Wellington Street on Friday, August 31.

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