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Brawling players await punishment

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Joel Taggart | 09:16 UK time, Monday, 25 January 2010

It is nice to know there is a demand for pictures of Irish League football around the world. Just a pity it was not for the right reasons on this particular occasion.

There I was sitting in the BBC sports office when my colleague who many listeners to Sportsound will know, Grant Cameron, sitting opposite me in the office, set his phone down with a chuckle.

He had just taken a call from a Swedish television station and, would you believe, they wanted to know if we could get them pictures of an Irish league football match. But not just any game, no they wanted to see the cup tie between New Ry City and Lar Ne.

larne_kick_blog.jpg

That is because of the disgraceful scenes at the Newry Showgrounds.

I listened like many of you I'm sure, as Paul Gilmour and Alan Paterson described in total amazement what they were watching unfold before their very eyes. Many of the photographs made for gruesome viewing.

It really does leave you scratching your head at times, wondering what goes through the mind of a footballer. What brings a player to the point where, as one photograph shows, he feels the need to seemingly attempt to gouge an opponents eyes. Or in another case, apparently attempt to kick an opponent while he is lying on the ground. What are they trying to achieve?

I wasn't there, so I cannot and will not attempt to apportion blame, but the referees report makes interesting reading.

The IFA disciplinary committee's action against players, coaches and managers who they feel overstepped the mark must be swift and decisive. I understand the maximum ban that they can impose on any player is two years.

I hope, if they feel it is appropriate based on evidence that they receive, they are brave enough to use such a sanction.

As for the future participation of the clubs in the competition, that will be down to an IFA-appointed commission, set up to avoid the all too familiar wave of appeals and counter appeals that we have seen after similar cases in the past.

It removes the power from the Challenge Cup committee, and means that representatives of clubs still involved in the Cup this season, who would sit on that committee, cannot be accused of handing down a punishment with an eye on protecting their own patch or trying to settle a previous score with one of the clubs involved. At least someone at the IFA had the foresight to head that one off at the pass.

Personally, if the evidence is damning, then expulsion from the cup for this and possibly future years for either one or both clubs has to be considered.

Fines are not the answer here. The two clubs involved, from what we are lead to believe, do not have two beans to rub together. What positive purpose would a fine serve when everybody knows the clubs cannot pay it?

The people who must suffer are the players who were involved, not the man on the board of directors who has to go begging and borrowing to get the money together to pay the fine. I doubt the players will be dipping their hands into their pockets.

On the basis of what my colleagues who were there told me, and the photographs that were taken during the violent exchanges, it is clear that a number of players involved do not deserve to be anywhere near an Irish Cup final. I sincerely hope that those found guilty by the footballing authorities are not given the chance, for this season at least.

It is a pity that television cameras were not at the game to help identify the main cuplrits. At least it meant we could not send that nice man in Sweden the pictures that would have resulted in Irish League football being seen in the worst possible light. Next time, and there will be a next time, the players may not be so lucky.

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