THE official backlash against violence in sport will kick off in Laois next week.
Thursday 29 November is the date for a mass public meeting in Durrow involving GAA and soccer officials, players and fans in a bid to tackle the rising tide of sporting violence.
Former GAA president and Laois native Liam O’Neill will be among the high-profile figures attending the meeting, which will start at 8pm in the Castle Arms Hotel.
Laois-Offaly Garda Chief Superintendent John Scanlan has been invited to attend the event, together with other garda members, officials from GAA headquarters in Croke Park and representatives of soccer and other sporting clubs.
Details of the public meeting, which is titled ‘Laois’s Concern against Violence in Sport’, were confirmed yesterday (Monday) by Laois County Council cathaoirleach John King from Rathdowney, whose son Ross suffered severe facial injuries during the senior county hurling final between Rathdowney-Errill and Camross in October. The star player, who is captain of the Laois senior hurling team, received hospital treatment after an ugly brawl erupted in the middle of the pitch five minutes from half-time.
Cllr King later spoke out in county hall against what he termed “disgraceful scenes” during the county final, as he announced his plans to call a public meeting to discuss violence in hurling and other sports and come up with solutions.
The need for action is seen as even more urgent now, following a shocking assault that left a referee with a broken jaw and eye socket after a soccer match in the midlands less than two weeks ago.
At the meeting in Laois county hall in October, cllr King declared: “We have to stamp out the troubles that are coming into the game, as otherwise we will not have any future for hurling in Laois.”
Cllr King also said he was “very disappointed” and “very upset” following the county final. He received strong support from fellow councillors, who agreed that the scenes at the county final were disgraceful and must be addressed by clubs and officials. Nasty social media commentary in the days following the final was also highlighted at the meeting.
Confirming the date of the Durrow event yesterday, cllr King said he wants Laois to lead the way in making all sporting fields safer for everyone involved, whether players, referees or supporters. He hopes as many sports club members as possible from Laois and other counties will attend.
He said: “Since my comments in October, I have been contacted by many club officials who want to see what we can do to solve the violence. This is a hugely important issue for sport, not only in Laois but all over the country and I hope we get as much support as possible at what I hope will mark a turning point on this extremely serious issue.”