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GAA underage game abandoned to avoid a ‘full-scale brawl’

A LOCAL underage GAA match had to be abandoned last Wednesday (May 3) in Belnaleck when tempers flared on the sideline between members of the clubs’ backroom team.

The under-15 Division Two league game between Belnaleck and Derrylin had to be called to a halt by referee James Lewis after a member from each management team let their tempers get the better of them.

“On two occasions, a member of each team’s management clashed and exchanged verbals. Despite speaking to them both and warning them, the situation escalated and I was left with no other option but to abandon the game after 26 minutes,” Mr Lewis said.

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“I was thinking of the welfare of the young players and decided to stop the game before it developed into a full-scale brawl.”

Mr Lewis, who is an experienced inter-county referee at minor level, said there had been a spate of this kind of behaviour in local underage GAA matches in recent months and that this was not an isolated incident.

“I’ve spoken to a number of referees in the county who have also experienced this kind of behaviour and young players have been left very upset,” he said.

“I have been refereeing for 12 years and didn’t take the decision [to abandon the match] lightly, but we have a duty of care to these young players. This kind of aggressive behaviour [on the sideline] has to stop.”

Fermanagh Referees’ Administrator, Dermott Love, confirmed that the incident had nothing to do with the players or supporters at the game and that the match was abandoned for the welfare of the players.

“The coaches or mentors are there to look after the welfare of the children taking part and in the referee’s view, they weren’t doing that. If they aren’t behaving themselves, how can a referee possibly control a game?” Mr Love explained.

“The exact incident will be clarified in the referee’s report. But the referee is there to maintain the safety of the players and if he thinks that is in jeopardy, then he is well within his rights to stop the match and leave the pitch.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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