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GAA chiefs in bid to resolve racism fracas

By John Campbell

Armagh have been forced into a major climbdown on the stance they have taken on allegations that their players have been "racially" abused in recent weeks by accepting that it didn't "accurately reflect" what had happened at O'Moore Park, Laois on Sunday.

However, it is understood that comments of a partitionist nature in at least one other league match this year and games involving their club champions Crossmaglen Rangers fuelled the anger that was clearly behind Tuesday night's original statement.

The chairmen of Armagh and Laois, Paul Duggan and Brian Allen, were both summoned to a meeting with GAA director general Paraic Duffy at Croke Park on Thursday, where a new statement on the fallout from last Sunday's league match in Portlaoise was agreed upon.

Armagh had not specified in their original statement, released through County Board secretary Paddy Og Nugent, if the "racial" abuse they had alleged had been directed at their players during the Laois game.

But the release of the statement, on the same day that Ciaran McKeever received notice of a proposed two-match ban for kicking an opponent in the tunnel area of O'Moore Park as the players made their way to the dressing-rooms at half-time, left no one in doubt that it was this match that Armagh had in mind when putting the statement together.

Armagh described as “provocation in the extreme” the alleged chanting of ‘God Save the Queen' and the alleged taunting of "British b*****d" towards their players.

However, they accepted at yesterday's meeting that their allegations in Tuesday night's statement "do not accurately reflect what occurred in O'Moore Park".

In last night's statement, released jointly by Armagh and Laois through the GAA's press office, it was “acknowledged by both boards that inappropriate verbal exchanges took place between players during the game and this will be addressed with our respective panels.”

That segment will please Laois supporters, who were angry about the impression the original statement had left in the public domain.

Laois had been contemplating releasing a statement of their own on Wednesday but held off until yesterday's meeting was staged.

The statement added that, "Laois and Armagh are committed to the playing of our games in the best possible spirit and look forward to the continuation of a keen, sporting rivalry."

The Croke Park top brass, clearly concerned that the image of the Association is being severely tarnished, is urging both counties to bring closure to what is viewed as a major blot on the GAA landscape.

Belfast Telegraph


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