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GAA ready to launch probe into eye gouging claims after Galway and Armagh clash

One particular incident, an apparent eye-gouging of Damien Comer by a member of Armagh’s extended panel, sparked a furious reaction from some of his Galway colleagues and was highlighted on RTÉ even before extra-time had started.

Frank Roche and Laura Lynott

The GAA is poised to launch another high-profile disciplinary investigation after Sunday’s historic All-Ireland SFC quarter-final between penalty winners Galway and losers Armagh was besmirched by an ugly brawl at the end of normal time.

In chaotic scenes close to the Cusack Stand tunnel, players from both sides clashed as they headed for the dressing-rooms and a full-scale row quickly developed, despite efforts by both management teams to separate the warring parties.

One particular incident, an apparent eye-gouging of Damien Comer by a member of Armagh’s extended panel, sparked a furious reaction from some of his Galway colleagues and was highlighted on RTÉ even before extra-time had started. Referee David Coldrick conducted a lengthy on-field discussion with his fellow officials before sending off Galway skipper Seán Kelly and Armagh joint-captain Aidan Nugent.

There is no allegation against any of the captains that they were involved in the alleged eye gouging incident.

The Ulster men had already lost Greg McCabe to an earlier red card but, as dictated by GAA rules, both teams resumed with 15 men for the additional 20 minutes.

It again finished in dramatic deadlock, with a spectacular equaliser from Cillian McDaid forcing the first ever Croker penalty shoot-out in senior championship football.

Four flawless spot-kicks from Shane Walsh, Comer, Rob Finnerty and Matthew Tierney secured a 4-1 victory for Galway, who now advance to a semi-final date with Derry on Saturday week.

In the meantime, however, the Central Competitions Control Committee will be compelled to conduct a more thorough investigation of the row that dominated the post-match debate, even above the penalty drama.

“The scenes at full-time, they were ugly, they shouldn’t be happening,” Galway boss Pádraic Joyce said.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney commented: “Those things shouldn’t happen, definitely shouldn’t, but there are a few simple things we could do to stop it. They shouldn’t be running in together at half-time.”

Asked if he feared potential retrospective action, Joyce replied: “We can’t focus on something we don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is that we’re playing Derry on Saturday week, so we’ll get everybody right for that. As of now, everyone is available bar Seán Kelly but we will look at that as well.”

Galway keeper Conor Gleeson had a day to forget – he was at least partially to blame for the concession of all three goals – but Armagh’s penalty fate was sealed after Stefan Campbell and Conor Turbitt both shot wide from 11 metres.

Afterwards, Joyce reflected on how Galway have been “accused of being soft in the past” but praised his players for showing “great character and great resilience” to win a big game in Croke Park. However, even in victory, he wasn’t happy with how it was achieved.

“In fairness, my heart does go out to Kieran McGeeney and the Armagh team and supporters, because it’s no way to lose a match,” the Galway manager stressed.

“We’re condensing this season into six or seven months, which is crazy,” he added. “It’s not the way to do it and it’s something the GAA must look at… penalties is for soccer, it’s not for GAA, in my eyes.”

Meanwhile, former justice minister Charlie Flanagan has called for an investigation into a melee.

A mass brawl took place on screen at the end of full time and ahead of extra time at Croke Park earlier today and footage appeared to show Galway player Damien Comer being eye-gouged by a member of the Armagh sideline.

Fine Gael TD for Laois and Offaly and chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Deputy Flanagan, wrote online: “Gardai should investigate violent confrontation in Croke Park. Expect some in @rte & @officialgaa to reduce it to ‘handbags.”

However, gardai confirmed to the Irish Independent a complaint on any issue of an alleged assault at Croke Park had not been made.

A Garda spokesperson said: “No complaint has been made to An Garda Síochána, at this time.”

Speaking on RTE's The Sunday Game, GAA pundit Pat Spillane was visibly shocked at the footage on air. He said during the coverage: "We should be here praising a great game, instead we're looking at disgraceful scenes. “Shame on all the players involved."

One particular incident - which appeared to be a man eye gouging Comer - led Mr Spillane to state on air: “There was a gouging incident, this is terrible. Holy God."

He noted that there were “a million rules and regulations here in Croke Park, and you're seeing two teams running in the same spot straight after extra-time, it's crazy.

"You have fellas that are not subs getting involved. Fellas will have to get a red card. The possible eye gouging, which looked like an eye gouging, was done by a fella who was not in the official panel.”

He labeled the incident as “disgraceful. Scandalous,” adding “shame on all involved."

The incident took place at the end of the 70 minutes of an exciting game, leading to widespread condemnation.

Former Armagh player Oisín McConville said the incident was “disgusting” on RTÉ, adding it was “something we don't want to see."

Gardai will only investigate an alleged assault if a complaint is made to them.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions notess: “When a crime victim reports a crime to the Garda Síochána, they take a witness statement from the victim.

“A witness statement is a written record of the complaint. The Gardaí then investigate the crime. Depending on the investigation and the evidence, they may arrest a suspect.”

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