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Armagh: We want action over racist taunts

By John Campbell

Armagh have raised the stakes in the racist allegations row by calling on Croke Park to launch a full investigation.

Armagh went public on the matter on Tuesday night, issuing a statement to the media in which they expressed concern over what they termed “racist and personal abuse directed at our players.”

And while Armagh didn't name the culprits, they cited the chanting of ‘God Save the Queen’ and taunts of ‘British b******s’ as examples of what they their players were subjected to on occasions.

HQ learned of Armagh's complaints via the media, but it's understood that formal contacts were made yesterday.

Armagh have also quashed reports that county chairman Paul Duggan had quit in the wake of the racist allegations row.

“That's not true. The chairman has not resigned,” said Armagh secretary Patrick Og Nugent.

Earlier, rumours swept through the GAA world that Duggan had quit his position as the pressure grew on Armagh to explain why they had gone public with the allegations.

Armagh now want an investigation into concerns that their players are not being protected from what they described as ‘racist abuse.’

They point out that the GAA is anti-sectarian and anti-racist and that anybody who breaks that code is guilty of bringing the Association into disrepute, which is punishable by suspension.

The timing of the Armagh statement — two days after they played Laois in Portlaoise in the Allianz Football League — inevitably points a finger of suspicion at the midlanders, although they insist they can find no evidence of Armagh players being abused.

It now remains to be seen how Croke Park proceed in what is a very delicate situation.

Armagh, who lost to Laois and had Ciaran McKeever sent off before the start of the second half, are aggrieved over incidents in the tunnel as the players returned to the dressing-rooms for half-time.

If Croke Park are to launch an investigation, Armagh will be expected to name those whom they deem responsible — either in Portlaoise or elsewhere — for abusing them.

Even then, it would be extremely difficult for the GAA to gather sufficient evidence to take action.

However, Armagh's decision to go public cannot be ignored by Croke Park, especially since it involves allegations of racism.

Meanwhile, former Armagh captain Jarlath Burns, who is currently his county’s Central Council delegate, believes that the Orchard board may have acted in haste in releasing a statement outlining its stance in relation to McKeever’s proposed two-match ban.

Burns, who led Armagh to the Ulster title in 1999, is understood to have made representations to county board officials to this effect.

The Armagh board had reacted to McKeever’s proposed ban handed down by the Central Competitions Control Committee by outlining its desire to see the rules “applied in a fair and equitable manner” — a reference to the fact that no Laois player has yet been made amenable for the alleged incident at O’Moore Park.

While Burns took his own stance on the matter, former county board chairman Joe Jordan conceded last night that abusive taunting and provocative language have been part and parcel of gaelic football for too long.

“Let’s be honest, this sort of thing has been going on for decades,” he said.

McKeever is expected to take his case to the Central Hearings Committee while Armagh assistant manager Paul Grimley is almost certain to appeal against the three-month ban which has been imposed on him following his confrontation with referee Duffy following the game.

Grimley (pictured remonstrating with Sunday’s referee Michael Duffy), in common with Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke, his backroom team, players and supporters, was livid at the manner in which Duffy brandished the red card at McKeever.

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