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Accusations rife as IFA begins probe into brawl at Warrenpoint v Ballymena tie

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Angry scenes: Warrenpoint keeper Mark Byrne was red carded after scaling the fence to confront Ballymena fans

Angry scenes: Warrenpoint keeper Mark Byrne was red carded after scaling the fence to confront Ballymena fans

Angry scenes: Warrenpoint keeper Mark Byrne was red carded after scaling the fence to confront Ballymena fans

Allegations, claims, counter claims and recriminations.

Milltown was full of them in the aftermath of Saturday's Irish Cup clash between Warrenpoint Town and Ballymena United when the home side's young goalkeeper Mark Byrne took centre stage for all the wrong reasons.

The 19-year-old from Dundalk has been in fine form since becoming first choice in mid-season for Warrenpoint. He has helped them move off the bottom of the Premiership table but his skills between the sticks were not a talking point following the weekend's sixth round tie.

In injury time with Ballymena winning 2-1, Byrne rushed off the pitch and over the fence behind the goal into the visiting supporters.

Video footage showed the teenager fighting and grappling with United fans.

To the credit of Town captain Danny Wallace and team-mate Eamon Scannell, they were quick to try and get Byrne away from the mayhem.

Other Warrenpoint and Ballymena players helped drag him clear too.

The management from both sides ran from their technical areas in an attempt to calm things down. There was some good amongst the bad and ugly scenes of what from a distance resembled a bar-room brawl in a Western.

Referee Shane Andrews showed Byrne a red card and when he blew his final whistle to call a halt to the controversial cup tie, that's when the accusations began.

There were allegations from Ballymena supporters that Byrne spat at them during the game.

There were claims from Warrenpoint followers that Byrne had suffered verbal abuse throughout the match. It was also suggested that the goalkeeper's father had been assaulted behind the goal, which led to the keeper scaling the fence to try and protect his dad.

Byrne's father received treatment after the game for a head wound, while Ballymena chairman John Taggart stated that two of his club's fans had suffered facial injuries in the fracas.

Police are investigating an alleged assault at the ground and Warrenpoint have vowed to hold their own investigation.

The Irish FA will also probe the incident and will want as many accounts of what happened as possible, including the report from referee Andrews.

It is likely to come down to the IFA's disciplinary committee as to how Byrne and possibly the clubs are dealt with.

It will be interesting to see how the IFA judge the situation given all the allegations surrounding the injury time madness which drew comparisons from Milltown spectators with Eric Cantona infamously jumping into the crowd at Selhurst Park 25 years ago.

On Friday, the Northern Ireland Football League had released a statement relating to 'unacceptable spectator behaviour' and Town chairman Connaire McGreevy was at pains to point out that the authorities must act on the verbal abuse of players.

"I'm not condoning the behaviour at all but abuse has been happening week in, week out for goalkeepers across this league and now is time for urgent action to address it," he said.

Post match, Warrenpoint boss Barry Gray said the game had become immaterial.

It did, though, keep Ballymena's season alive thanks to a late Andy McGrory winner after Kyle Owens had levelled Brandon Doyle's goal for the home side, earning United a quarter-final trip to Ballinamallard.

WARRENPOINT: Byrne, Bennett, Reilly, O'Sullivan, Doyle, Scannell, Hutchinson, Wallace, Dillon, Deasy, Swan. Unused subs: McCann, Smith, Watters, Cowan, O'Kane, Murnaghan.

BALLYMENA: Ross Glendinning, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, Knowles (T Kane, 90 mins), McCullough, McGrory, Winchester (Kelly, 86 mins), Lecky, Millar, Owens. Unused subs: K Kane, Burns, Balmer, Reece Glendinning, Lavery.

Referee: Shane Andrews (Ballygowan)

Man of the match: Andy McGrory

Match rating: 7/10

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