Northern Ireland news

GAA star John McEntee hits out at 'thuggery' in the game after on-pitch brawl at Derry reserve match spills into crowd

A video grab showing an on-pitch fight at a match between Slaughtneil and Ballinderry on Thursday

A FORMER GAA star has insisted the game's disciplinary processes need to be overhauled following serious violence at a string of recent matches.

Ex-Armagh player and All-Ireland winner John McEntee hit out at "thuggery" shown at a Derry reserve championship match on Thursday after an on-pitch brawl spilled into the crowd.

Video footage of Thursday's match between Slaughtneil and Ballinderry reserves showed players involved in a prolonged fight.

The punch-up was the second outbreak of violence at two consecutive matches involving Slaughtneil, the first at Owenbeg in Dungiven and on Thursday in Ballinderry.

Warning: Video contains strong language and scenes of violence

On Wednesday night, a referee was allegedly assaulted following a Derry Senior Football Championship match between the reigning Ulster champions and Coleraine's Eoghan Rua.

A video grab showing an on-pitch fight at a match between Slaughtneil and Ballinderry on Thursday

McEntee, an Irish News columnist, said he was alarmed by the footage from Thursday night's match.

He described the violent scenes as "thuggery" and said he was concerned the violence continued long after the initial on-pitch altercation ended.

He suggested the GAA's disciplinary procedures needed to be overhauled in the wake of several recent violent incidents at matches.

"There is a very strong disciplinary process," he said.

A Slaughtneil player remonstrates with the crowd at a reserve match between his team and Ballinderry on Thursday

"But we would have to ask if that is a strong enough deterrent to stop people from taking part in this violent action.

"This is certainly not what we would want associated with our game."

Several weeks ago, referee Damien Harkin and one of his umpires were allegedly assaulted at the end of a game between Greenlough and Ballinascreen in Dungiven.

Video footage of Thursday's match between Slaughtneil and Ballinderry showed players involved in a prolonged brawl.

The fighting spilled across the pitch and a male spectator was assaulted.

A young boy wanders on to the pitch just metres from a mass brawl between Slaughtneil and Ballinderry players on Thursday

One Slaughtneil player could be seen urging the crowd to fight him. Another player appeared to jump on to a fence separating the crowd from the pitch.

Spectators shouted obscenities at players as a young boy wandered on to the pitch, close to the brawl.

The violent scenes happened just a day after Slaughtneil were beaten by Eoghan Rua in a key match.

Video footage of that match showed Slaughtneil supporters remonstrating with the referee following the game. Players could be seen holding at least one supporter back.

An on-pitch fight at a match between Slaughtneil and Ballinderry on Thursday

An umpire also appeared to have been pushed in the fracas.

There are allegations the referee was later assaulted in the tunnel.

No one from Slaughtneil could be reached for comment last night.

It is understood Derry County Board cannot investigate any allegations until they receive match reports from each referee. The board is expected to receive reports within days.

An on-pitch fight at a match between Slaughtneil and Ballinderry on Thursday spilled into the crowd

The board was contacted for comment.

A PSNI spokesman said it had not received any reports of an assault at Owenbeg on either Wednesday or Thursday.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said he was confident the Derry board would investigate any allegations.

"I have every confidence that the county board will take whatever steps are necessary," he said.

"If there are any criminal acts, these should be reported to police."

A Slaughtneil player appears to jump on to a fence following a mass fight

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