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Ballymena supporters to boycott next Warrenpoint game in protest at 'unproven sectarian allegations'

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Ugly scenes: Warrenpoint goalkeeper Mark Byrne clashed with Ballymena supporters

Ugly scenes: Warrenpoint goalkeeper Mark Byrne clashed with Ballymena supporters

Harry Doherty

Harry Doherty

Ugly scenes: Warrenpoint goalkeeper Mark Byrne clashed with Ballymena supporters

Ballymena United fans have decided to land a financial blow on Warrenpoint Town in response to "unproven allegations of sectarian chanting" following the contentious Irish Cup tie last month.

Warrenpoint chairman Connaire McGreevy had claimed that Point goalkeeper Mark Byrne was the subject of "sectarian verbal abuse" during the match and Sky Blues supporters' clubs have expressed their anger and disgust by not sending buses to the league clash at Milltown next Saturday.

The Supporter Liaison Committee said they "needed to protect the integrity" of their members after the "unproven allegations".

Byrne, who left the pitch and fought with fans, was banned for six months, three of which are suspended for 18 months, after being found guilty of "bringing the game into disrepute".

A United statement said: "For Warrenpoint away this Saturday - following a recent meeting - the Supporter Liaison Committee advised the club that in the light of the unproven allegations of sectarian chanting by Warrenpoint Town FC and their Chairman, they needed to protect the integrity of their members from being falsely tarnished again."

Six supporters' club buses will not offer a service to Warrenpoint's ground.

While there was no evidence of Byrne being subjected to sectarian abuse, there have been similar allegations made recently, with Crusaders goalkeeper Gerard Doherty referring to "sectarian shouts" during the Irish Cup quarter-final match against Glentoran at the Oval.

Doherty was sent off by referee Andrew Davey after the game for throwing a bottle back at the Glens fans.

And Carrick Rangers claimed a Linfield supporter brought a megaphone to Taylor's Avenue on Saturday in order to direct abuse at players.

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Harry Doherty

Harry Doherty

Harry Doherty

Rangers released a statement following the team’s 2-0 defeat by the league leaders, saying: “Carrick Rangers FC totally condemn the vile personal and sectarian abuse directed at players during today’s match.

“We would call on all clubs and the NI Football League to take positive action to begin to stamp out what has become an endemic problem in our local game.”

The Blues reacted angrily to the claims, calling them “unproven allegations”.

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern said: “I didn’t hear any sectarian abuse but witnessed some despicable behaviour from two Carrick players at the end of the game.”

The Blues — who won 2-0 courtesy of Kirk Millar’s brace — said an internal investigation would include “the unacceptable behaviour of certain Carrick players during and at the end of today’s game” and the added: “Linfield Football Club is totally opposed to sectarianism and all forms of discriminatory behaviour and abuse.”

Carrick boss Niall Currie said he heard goalkeeper Harry Doherty being abused by fans for 45 minutes and that he was red carded following the match.

He added that Doherty and Carrick defender Caolan Loughran, who he said “reacted” at the end of the game, should have “risen above it”.

Currie then tweeted on Sunday: “Let me be clear. 99 per cent of Linfield supporters were magnificent yesterday. I’m talking about one or two very silly people.”

Doherty was sanctioned after he made a hand gesture to a Linfield fan who had been abusing him, with a loud hailer, throughout the second half.

Currie added: “If I had children at the game today, they would need earplugs. I know 99.9 per cent of Linfield’s support is fantastic and they love their club but there is always that extremely small element which crosses the line.

“I’m not excusing Harry for his behaviour after the game — he’s bang out of order — the focal point was he took abuse for 45 minutes but he has to rise above that. Caolan Loughran also reacted but they are representing this football club and you have to turn the other cheek.”

In January, Larne condemned “vile abuse” towards their goalkeeper Conor Devlin during their 2-1 victory over Glentoran at Inver Park, prompting a statement from NIFL vowing to tackle a rise in alleged incidents of “unacceptable spectator behaviour”.

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