Northern Ireland

Glentoran FC coach calls for action after firework attack

A Glentoran FC coach treated by medical staff after a firework exploded near his team's dugout has said something has to be done to stop such incidents.

Pete Batey spoke after the firework was thrown by a Portadown fan during a cup game at the Oval in east Belfast.

Glentoran's goalkeeping coach, David McClelland, was knocked to the ground as the firework blew a contact lens out of one eye.

Mr Batey said someone could have been seriously injured.

"The firework went off in my ear and it bounced and hit David in the eye and neck," Mr Batey said.

"I had ringing in my ears and David went down on the floor.

"My main concern was not so much the safety of myself, but that it could easily have hit a young ball-boy or one of the young players sat on the bench.

"It went off in my ear, but six inches forward and somebody could have lost an eye.

"My immediate concern was for David, he was hugging his face and could quite easily have lost an eye.

"I know the doctor is concerned he could have a perforated ear drum."

Mr Batey and Mr McClelland were given the all-clear by a medical team.

Police are examining CCTV footage of the league cup third round game.

More fireworks were thrown and the match organisers warned the crowd that, if it continued, the match would be called off.

Mr Batey, who is Glentoran's assistant manager, said he did not want to see retribution against Portadown for the trouble.

Justice

However, he said more needed to be done to prevent a repeat of the violence.

"We were getting some messages from some good Portadown fans that the stewards were getting threatened," he added

"What's next? When are you going to draw the line? What's going to be done?

"We have to go to the expense of putting netting up which is going to cost us money.

"I would hate to see any retribution on Portadown FC, because they are not fans of Portadown FC, but something has to be done."

Trevor Clydesdale of Portadown FC passed on his sympathies to Mr Batey and Mr McClelland.

He said those responsible for throwing the fireworks were not connected to any of their supporters clubs.

"Club officials and stewards acted tremendously last night, straightaway they identified the individuals and confronted and isolated them in the stand," Mr Clydesdale added.

"One of our directors took photographs of one of the individuals which he passed on to the police.

"We are cooperating with all the authorities to bring these people to justice as soon as we can."

Mr Clydesdale said that the stewards at the game were unpaid and there "purely in the capacity to observe".

"They are not there in the capacity of a police officer to wade in and deal with the individuals," he added.

'Outraged'

"They have to look after their own safety as well as the supporters."

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín condemned the incidents and said she was "appalled".

"Such behaviour is totally unacceptable at a football match and I would call on organisers of the game to ensure the matter is fully investigated and all action taken to prevent a recurrence of such incidents in the future," she said.

"I also expect the organisers to cooperate fully in any PSNI investigation of disturbances in and around this match."

East Belfast MP Naomi Long said she was "shocked and outraged" at the incidents.

"I do not know what could possess somebody to throw a firework in the direction of another person," she said.

"Fireworks are extremely dangerous and if not handled correctly then they can have the potential to severely injure or even kill."

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