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Two Down teams banned from Championship after violent scenes erupt

 

By John Campbell

The Down Competitions Control Committee has moved quickly in a determined bid to help eradicate the violence which has permeated the GAA club scene in Ulster spanning recent weeks.

It is understood that the Mourne County body has banned the Downpatrick RGU and Ballyholland Harps adult teams from next season's Championships following the disgraceful scenes that marred their recent All-County League Division One tie at Kilcoo.

Players from both teams were seen to clamber over a fence in order to engage in a disturbance which appears to have had its roots in a disagreement between two spectators that led to an even more ugly situation involving players and other spectators.

The incident is just one of several which have been captured and widely viewed on social media, severely tarnishing the image of the GAA in the province.

The Down Competitions Control Committee's decision to take what would be regarded as a radical step underlines their desire to combat the malaise of thuggery which has cast Ulster club football in a bad light.

While both clubs will be banished from the 2019 Down Senior Championship, the county's flagship competition which was brought to a conclusion for this season when Burren beat Kilcoo last Sunday in a match that passed off without incident, it is also understood that hefty individual sanctions have been proposed.

While it seems more than likely that the Championship ban will be appealed by both clubs, there is nonetheless a clear desire on the part of the authorities to show that they are not prepared to tolerate violence.

Downpatrick RGU released a statement last week in which they intimated that what took place at the game was wrong and should not have happened in the first instance.

GAA chiefs in Ulster at both provincial and county level have condemned the recent violence which has now manifested itself in three different counties and which has served to detract from the superb fare which has been served up in the different county Championships, all of which have attracted huge attendances.

The fracas which occurred in the Tyrone Intermediate Championship match between Stewartstown and Strabane was followed by an incident in the Moy v Edendork game which saw former county captain Sean Cavanagh sustain severe facial injuries and concussion.

The Derry Competitions Control committee is still to address alleged incidents in the Slaughtneil v Coleraine senior Championship quarter-final replay, while individual suspensions proposed in the wake of a fracas which marred the Ballinderry v Greenlough Championship tie are understood to be under appeal.

The action taken by the Down CCCC is the strongest by some distance, although it is certain to be appealed by both Downpatrick RGU and Ballyholland.

The outcome of any such appeals will be awaited with considerable interest by a GAA fraternity which has been taken aback by recent occurrences.

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