Belfast Telegraph

Keith Gillespie lashes out in charity match and puts rival in hospital

By Claire O'Boyle

Ex-Northern Ireland star Keith Gillespie has apologised after hospitalising an opponent during a charity football match.

The former Manchester United and Newcastle Utd winger lashed out in the second half of a Manchester United Legends game in memory of late West Ham Utd player Dylan Tombides in Australia.

The incident unfolded when Gillespie elbowed Aussie player Dean Heffernan, leaving him slumped on the ground.

According to Fox Sports, Heffernan ended up in hospital in Perth with memory loss as well as chipped teeth and jaw damage.

The referee missed the incident, but Heffernan was substituted in the 79th minute.

Bangor man Gillespie said sorry on Twitter.

"Apologies to everyone with regards my elbow," he wrote.

"I reacted to an elbow in the ribs but I obviously didn't mean to injure. Apologies again."

However, Fox said no direct contact between the parties had been made, despite both teams staying at the same Perth hotel.

PFA chief executive John Didulica said: "It is unfortunate that the focus has shifted off what was a wonderful night for the Dylan Tombides Foundation and our members.

"Thankfully Dean is recovering well. However, given the seriousness of the incident, it is appropriate that we take it up with Manchester United."

Old Trafford legend Bryan Robson, who also played in the game, which the Australia PFA Legends side won 3-0, reportedly told Gillespie he won't appear in the next United Legends match against Barcelona.

The game was organised to raise money for the DT38 Foundation and the Manchester United Foundation.

Australian Tombides died after a three-year battle with testicular cancer in 2014 aged just 20.

The United side was captained by Paul Scholes and other players who took part included Dwight Yorke and Denis Irwin.

In his playing career Gillespie earned 86 caps for Northern Ireland.

Signed by the Red Devils as a youngster in 1991, he was transferred to Newcastle in 1995 as part of the deal that brought Andy Cole to Old Trafford.

Gillespie is no stranger to the headlines. He famously blew his £7m earnings before being declared bankrupt in October 2010.

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