Belfast Telegraph

School football brawl: two Model boys suspended

By Amanda Poole

Two boys have been suspended from school for five days as police investigate violence at the Belfast Schools Cup football final.

The police were called to Lisburn Distillery’s ground at Ballyskeagh on St Patrick’s Day when violent scenes erupted at the end of the match between Belfast Boys’ Model School and St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School.

A number of adult spectators then became involved in skirmishes.

Peggy O’Neill said she was “sickened” when she saw her son Anthony (16), a St Mary’s pupil, being attacked.

“I am absolutely appalled,” she said.

“My son didn’t lift his hand once. He was walking away when he was nudged harshly and then he was punched in the face. He wasn’t fighting and didn’t retaliate.

“Sectarian language was being used on and off the pitch. It was meant to be children playing football, but the behaviour of the adults was disgraceful. I was frightened and fearful for my two other children in the crowd.”

Two Model pupils were suspended. Belfast Boys’ Model principal Jim Keith said the whole team has been spoken to and it was unfortunate a limited number of boys and spectators spoiled a fantastic game of football. “I'm very disappointed,” he said.

“Two of the boys who behaved badly have been spoken to, their parents are involved and they were sent home from school. On Tuesday the boys are going to visit St Mary's and apologise for the way they behaved.”

He refuted claims his pupils used sectarian language during the scuffles.

“I was surprised to hear that as there was nothing sectarian said,” he said. “My concern was adults being involved, but we have no jurisdiction over them.”

The principal of St Mary's, Jim Sheerin, said he called the police because he was concerned about the violence escalating.

“The boys provided a great spectacle for nearly two hours.

“Unfortunately this was overshadowed by outbursts of inexcusable violence by a small number of adults.

“There had been good-natured banter between the fans all day.”

A PSNI spokesman said a small number of people have reported assaults. He said evidence gathering was under way.

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