The GAA is poised to launch another high-profile disciplinary investigation after yesterday’s historic All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final between penalty winners Galway and losers Armagh was besmirched by an ugly brawl at the end of normal-time.
In chaotic scenes close to the Cusack Stand tunnel, players from both sides clashed as they headed for the dressing-rooms and a full-scale row quickly developed, despite efforts by both management teams to separate the warring parties.
One particular incident, an apparent eye-gouging of Damien Comer by a member of Armagh’s extended panel, sparked a furious reaction from some of his Galway colleagues and was high¬lighted on RTÉ even before extra-time had started.
Former Armagh All Ireland winner, Oisin McConville raged: “It’s scenes that we shouldn’t hide behind regardless of what county’s involved.
“People talk about unsavoury - it’s not. It’s disgusting. It’s something that we just don’t want to see, simple as that.”
Referee David Coldrick conducted a lengthy on-field discussion with his fellow officials before sending off Galway skipper Seán Kelly and Armagh joint-captain Aidan Nugent.
The Ulster men had already lost Greg McCabe to an earlier red card but, as dictated by GAA rules, both teams resumed with 15 men for the additional 20 minutes which again finished in dramatic deadlock, a spectacular equaliser from Cillian McDaid forcing the first ever Croker penalty shootout in senior championship football.
Four flawless spot-kicks from Shane Walsh, Comer, Rob Finnerty and Matthew Tierney secured a 4-1 victory for Galway who now advance to a semi-final date with Derry on July 9 at Croke Park.
In the meantime, however, the Central Competitions Control Committee will be compelled to conduct a more thorough investigation of the row that dominated the post-match debate, even above the penalty drama.
“The scenes at full-time, they were ugly, they shouldn’t be happening,” Galway boss Pádraic Joyce accepted, while Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney echoed: “Those things shouldn’t happen, definitely shouldn’t, but there are a few simple things we could do to stop it. They shouldn’t be running in together at half-time.”