Northern Ireland news

Football club vows to take action after fans throw fake eyeballs at Co Derry player

Co Derry-born striker Dean Shiels has been capped 14 times for Northern Ireland

A SCOTTISH football club has vowed to take action against fans who threw fake eyeballs at a Co Derry midfielder who lost sight in one eye as a child.

Dunfermline Athletic player Dean Shiels, who was born in Magherafelt, was targeted during a game against Falkirk on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old striker, who has won 14 caps for Northern Ireland, lost sight in his right eye after a childhood accident.

The incident came as two Falkirk players, Joe McKee and Kevin O'Hara, continue to serve a combined 12 game suspension for taunting Mr Shiels over the loss of his eye during a previous fixture in October.

Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston said: "You never like to hear stuff like that. It's poor.

"It's great discipline he showed. The whole team showed that. He has had a lot to deal with, but I think the whole club have."

The Scottish Professional Football League is to review match reports before deciding whether to discipline Falkirk for crowd behaviour, while officials from both clubs are due to meet today to examine CCTV footage.

In a statement, Falkirk said that it "apologises unreservedly for the abhorrent behaviour of a small number of individuals".

It said: "The club wholeheartedly condemns the abuse witnessed towards Dean Shiels in the strongest terms and will be working closely with Dunfermline Athletic FC to identify those responsible.

"Abuse towards anyone with a disability is simply unacceptable and the fact this took place with a sporting context with rivalries at play is no excuse.

"This needs to stop now. We will look to take action against anyone identified and will not allow this disgraceful behaviour to be repeated."

The footballer's father, Derry City manager Kenny Shiels, told the BBC that the abuse was "unfair and premeditated".

Mr Shiels had previously said that he had "immense pride" in his son, adding: "He’s had to battle against a lot throughout his career, he has been toughened by it."

At the time of the operation to remove his eye in 2006, Dean Shiels said that he didn't want people to "make too big a deal of this".

He told The Herald Scotland: "Since the accident, I have had no sight at all in the eye despite several operations when I was younger.

"At that time it was always envisaged that there might come a time when the damaged eye might have to be removed.

"In the past few months, the condition of the eye has deteriorated and it has been causing me other problems such as severe headaches."

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