Referee's jaw broken after attack in Irish amateur league

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Assaulted referee forgives his attackers

A referee is recovering in hospital from a broken jaw and other serious injuries after an "appalling" attack by players following a match.

Daniel Sweeney was assaulted after an amateur game in the Republic of Ireland's Combined Counties League.

Police are investigating the incident - allegedly involving three Mullingar Town players and a fan - which followed the club's match at Horseleap.

League chairman Sean Montgomery told the BBC he would push for life bans.

"I haven't come across anything like this before and the league is taking it very seriously. Daniel is a very good referee," he said.

"I'm told it was a good game of football and Mullingar won 3-1."

Mullingar Town have declined to comment.

It is understood the incident happened in a car park by the ground at Horseleap, County Offaly.

The league is affiliated to the Leinster Senior League, which is one level below the top-tier League of Ireland's two divisions.

Montgomery said it was only the second time during his three years in charge - after a minor previous incident - that a referee in the league had been targeted.

But the Irish Soccer Referees Society (ISRS) said the safety of officials across the country was a growing area of concern.

Referee Daniel Sweeney
Referee Daniel Sweeney is recovering in hospital after the attack

"We are shocked and appalled in equal measure with the vicious assault on one of our members after this game on Sunday," said ISRS president Paul O'Brien.

"He's had his jaw broken on both sides, another break higher up and has a broken bone below the eye, plus stitches in his nose.

"We wholeheartedly condemn any violence in our beautiful game. We believe there is no place for violence, intimidation or abuse of any official

'Referees should be given protection'

O'Brien said "assaults and abuse are on the increase" and called for action to tackle the problem.

"There is a chronic shortage of referees in the country. Anyone interested in refereeing would be turned off completely on viewing the image of our assaulted member," he added.

"Without referees there is no game. We, as referees, should be viewed as a resource and in turn we should be given the protection and respect we deserve."

He called on the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to review the guidelines for sanctions against those who assault referees and to introduce a 'respect and education campaign' to encourage better behaviour.

Police officers from the Gardai's Tullamore station were called to Horseleap's ground shortly before 13:00 GMT on Sunday.

"It's understood a match referee, a male in his 50s, was physically injured when a disturbance broke out," said a spokesperson.

"The injured man was taken to Tullamore Hospital by ambulance for treatment. His injures are not thought to be life threatening. No arrests have been made to date and enquiries are ongoing."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Tullamore Garda Station on 00 353 57 932 7600.

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