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Sport NI chief fears for GAA's image

By John Campbell

Sport Northern Ireland Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown has called on the GAA authorities to conduct a 'very serious investigation' into the brawl involving the majority of the Armagh and Cavan players before Sunday's Ulster Championship game at the Athletic Grounds.

Ms McKeown added that the ugly scenes at the weekend did GAA and sport in general no good whatsoever, stating that her organisation would recommend 'very severe sanctions' against those found guilty of causing the trouble.

The Sport NI Chief added that the fighting, which broke out as the players prepared to line out for the traditional pre-match parade, was a very disappointing example to set the youngsters inside the ground.

Her views are at odds with those of Armagh manager Paul Grimley, who claimed that the incidents were 'nothing really serious'.

McKeown told the Belfast Telegraph: "It was not good for GAA, not good for sport and not good for family sport.

"It was very disappointing. The GAA has put considerable effort in over recent years to ensure that type of incident does not happen and by and large we have all enjoyed the best of gaelic sport in recent times.

"I think that what happened on Sunday was very unfortunate and not good for GAA at all.

"It is not something that you would bring your child in to watch."

Sport Northern Ireland and its Chief Executive, who has been in the post for nine months, enjoy a strong relationship with the GAA.

When the question was put to Ms McKeown about potential punishments for those involved in the fighting, she said: "I believe a very serious investigation needs to be undertaken now. It is very hard to say until we find out all the facts but we would be recommending very severe sanctions because we want to stamp this sort of behaviour out in all sport."

Armagh won the match 1-12 to 0-9 but the scoreline and an important victory for the Orchard County was almost forgotten on the back of what happened prior to the throw-in when punches were thrown and young members of a band providing pre-match music had to run for cover.

Referee Marty Duffy did not send off any players with the game starting six minutes later than planned.

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