There were angry scenes in Croke Park after yesterday’s Leinster Football Final when referee Martin Sludden was pushed and shoved after the match by irate supporters as Gardai were forced to intervene to break up the dispute.
A formal Garda investigation will be opened into yesterday’s riot and commentators have said that the results of that investigation - along with an official GAA one - will have far-reaching implications at GAA stadia around the country.
Garda sources told The Irish Times that criminal investigations can be opened even when there’s no formal complaint from the victim, hinting that such action could be taken in the wake of yesterday’s pitch incursion.
Louth were leading 1-10 to Meath’s 0-12 when, during extra time, Meath’s Joe Sheridan appeared to throw the ball into the net. The goal was allowed by the referee after consultation with an umpire.
It would have been Louth’s first time to win a Leinster final since 1957, and there was a furious reaction from Louth supporters in Croke Park. A man in a red shirt rushed onto the field and shoved the referee in the chest. He was followed by RTÉ cameras as he left the scene. Gardaí escorted the referee off the field as he was jostled twice more by angry football fans and pushed in the back by another. Shortly afterwards, an apparently injured steward was seen lying on the ground awaiting attention.
The GAA’s president, Christy Cooney, said: “The treatment of the referee was absolutely disgraceful. We will need a serious review of our security at Croke Park. “A course of action might need to be taken against individuals that transgressed security,” Mr Cooney added.
The president also called the scenes one of the worst breaches of security in living GAA memory.
The Tyrone referee has since admitted that he made a mistake in awarding the controversial Meath goal which sparked off the whole fiasco. Despite the referee's admission, though, the GAA said that his ruling was final and ruled out the possibility of a re-match.
The GAA confirms that the Referee's Report has been received and the referee has stated that he made a mistake in awarding the Meath goal. However, under GAA Rules, a re-fixture cannot be ordered as the Referee's report of the full time score is final,' said an official statement from the GAA.