| 3°C Belfast

Irish FA poised to sanction Warrenpoint's Mark Byrne after unsavoury clash with Ballymena United fans


Byrne's clash with the Ballymena fans was caught on camera

Byrne's clash with the Ballymena fans was caught on camera

Barry Gray

Barry Gray

�INPHO/Brian Little

Byrne's clash with the Ballymena fans was caught on camera

The Irish FA Disciplinary Committee are set to meet this week to discuss the mayhem at Milltown last Saturday when Warrenpoint Town goalkeeper Mark Byrne left the pitch, jumped over the fence behind the goal and ended up fighting and grappling with Ballymena United fans.

There is a feeling within the game that the teenager will face a lengthy ban and may not play again this season though Warrenpoint, while accepting Byrne will be charged for his injury-time altercation, are hoping that what they see as extenuating circumstances will be taken into account.

There is also a possibility that both Warrenpoint and Ballymena could face charges from the IFA.

It has been an eventful and distressing week for both clubs.

After the Irish Cup sixth round tie was marred by unsavoury scenes, accusations flew around like leaves in the wind.

Warrenpoint followers alleged Byrne had been verbally abused by Ballymena fans and that seeing his father being attacked behind the goal was the reason he jumped in.

From Ballymena fans, there were allegations Byrne had spat at the away support behind the goal.

Then came hard-hitting statements from both clubs with Warrenpoint claiming on Monday that Byrne was "physically assaulted" and the subject of "sectarian verbal abuse".

United responded the next day with a complete rejection of both claims, adding that they were "extremely disappointed" with what the Milltown outfit said.

Given this is such a high profile case, there will be much interest in the IFA deliberations and verdict. Both clubs are willing to give their views of the controversial incident to the Disciplinary Committee and video footage is likely to come into play.

Byrne missed yesterday's 2-1 defeat to Linfield as he was serving the first game of a three-match suspension, having been sent off last weekend for violent conduct.

Asked about his 19-year-old goalkeeper, Warrenpoint boss Barry Gray did not avoid the issue.

"It has been a tough week for the people involved here and I'm sure in the Ballymena side that's the same for them," said Gray. "Mark will be punished internally and he will be punished externally. My focus at this moment is that he is involved in our panel, he is here as a player and I need to be conscious of his demands and what he needs as a person and a player and in my capacity that I do the best for him.

"I can't control upstairs in the club and I can't control upstairs in the IFA. What will be will be and he will need to be brave and big enough to take whatever comes in the coming days or weeks."

Quizzed on if he had rallied around Byrne, Gray replied: "Not that I have rallied or haven't rallied, my focus this week has been on the team that needed to be prepared for a Linfield side sitting top of the table. Next week will be the same when we play Institute in a vital game on Friday.

"As much as I do for Mark, my priority is the team and to put points on the board. Without sounding completely heartless, I have to work individually with every single player and every player has their own set of circumstances. If that impacts on what my priorities are as a group then the group wins.

"When we trained on Tuesday night there was no talk about what happened last Saturday.

"What happened has gone. My job is to keep the club in the Premiership. All I can do is be the manager that I am and run the side for the benefit of the team."

Meanwhile, the fence behind the goal that collapsed at Milltown in the middle of the fracas has been replaced and it is understood that the bill for that work may be sent to Ballymena.

Please log in or register with for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph