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In Pictures: Fury as fans attack Ulster GAA referee after Meath beat Louth at Croke Park

By Lesley-Anne Henry

GAA chiefs have launched an investigation after a Co Tyrone referee was attacked when vicious scenes erupted during a controversial match at Croke Park.

Martin Sludden, from Omagh, was struck by several angry spectators who ran on to the pitch after the final whistle of the Leinster Senior Football Championship final yesterday.

Controversy erupted after an injury time goal by Meath’s Joe Sheridan prevented Louth winning their first Leinster title in over 50 years.

The referee, who has more than 10 years’ experience, was hit at least three times by three different GAA fans.

Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick had to hold off some of the assailants before Mr Sludden could be escorted away by Gardai. Louth players and fans were infuriated by Mr Sludden’s decision to allow the goal which came after the referee consulted with his umpires.

Television replays clearly showed the goal shouldn't have been awarded as the ball was thrown over the goal-line.

RTÉ analyst Pat Spillane said it was a disgraceful finish to the game both on and off the pitch and called for the game to be replayed.

“Those were disgraceful scenes at the end. Cowardly individuals attacking a referee who is doing it in a voluntary capacity,” he said.

“There is no place in the GAA for people like that.

“Scandalous scenes and a bad

day for the GAA on that account. “A fella doing a job made a human error. We cannot condone those scenes, they are disgraceful and punishments must be handed out.”

Mr Spillane added, however, that it was “just as disgraceful that Louth were robbed of their first Leinster title since 1957 by a complete refereeing mistake”.

GAA president Christy Cooney said the incidents had “no place in gaelic games”.

When asked whether Louth could be offered a replay, Mr Cooney said no decisions would be taken until the referee's report on the game is filed. He added the association would be investigating the incidents with a view to punishing the offenders.

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