Armagh v Cavan Ulster Championship match marred by brawl Close
A GAA investigation is under way after a mass brawl between players from Armagh and Cavan broke out before yesterday's Ulster Championship match had even started.
The fight erupted as players gathered for the pre-match parade at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
Young band members, who were providing music for the parade, were forced to run for cover as up to 15 players became embroiled in the violence.
Horrified families and young children watched as players threw punches at each other. One Cavan player, Martin Dunne, was unable to play after being struck and was later seen with his arm in a sling.
Despite the disgraceful scenes, no players were sent off by Sligo referee Marty Duffy, and Armagh went on to win the game by 1-12 to 0-9.
Players from both sides now face possible suspensions following the brawl, which GAA president-elect Aogan O Fearghail described as "unsightly... and not something I would welcome at all".
A statement from the Ulster Council said that that the CCCC (Central Competitions Control Committee) of the GAA will "view the referee's report and any action will arise from the findings".
Former Armagh player and BBC Radio Ulster GAA commentator Oisin McConville said that it appeared the fight started after the Armagh team lined out behind the Cavan flag as the parade was about to start.
He said he would support possible suspensions following the fracas.
"There's no other way to handle it," he said.
"If there are suspensions I would support that, but they might just get a wrap of the knuckles. Fighting has no place in the game and that's one of the things we have tried to eradicate."
GAA fans vented their anger over the fighting on Twitter.
Aidan O'Hara said it's "ridiculous that this sort of thing is tolerated", while another user said the players "should be ashamed".
Tara McLoughlin stated: "Absolute disgrace what happened at start of Armagh-Cavan game, should be ashamed of themselves."
However, Armagh boss Paul Grimley played down the incident saying "nothing really serious happened". He added: "Whenever you get 15 boys hyped up and they are training so hard and the tempo and the aggro is there, the adrenaline is flowing, you are going to get wee tiffs like that. But that's all it was."
Referring to the suggestion that the fight broke out after Armagh stood behind the Cavan flag, he said it was a "genuine mistake".
By Oisin McConville
Fights and brawls used to be par for the course – but it's the exception now rather than the norm. It's not something we want to see but it does happen in sports games, which can get overheated and out of hand.
What happens next will depend on the referee's report. If the referee dealt with it at the time then there might not be any repercussions – but I don't think he did.
So it will now be up to the Central Competitions Control Committee in Croke Park to deliver any sanctions.
If there are suspensions I would support that, but they might just get a rap of the knuckles. Fighting has no place in the game and that's one of the things we have tried to eradicate.
I have a young child and it's not something I want him or any young players at club level to see.
This hasn't happened in a long time and I wouldn't be surprised if there were suspensions over this. The GAA will want to set down a marker, and if there is a player who is guilty then they will feel the wrath of the committee. It's the only way to handle it, and there's no other avenue to go.
Oisin McConville was a forward in Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland winning team