by Amber Baxter and Gerry Hand
The referee who abandoned the North Eastern Schoolboys League, Youth game between OMP United and Kells Youths, in Navan’s St Marys Park, last night has told Meath Live he was scared players would be burned after a number of fireworks were hurled on to the pitch from outside the playing area.
Experienced official, Derek Gaff, revealed, ‘The first incident happened when players were going back up the pitch after an OMP corner kick.
‘I saw what I’d describe as a firecracker come through the air and across the dividing fence between the spectators and the pitch.
‘It landed in the six yard box but thankfully most of the players were further up the pitch, but the goalie was close by and fortunately, it didn’t strike him.
‘I was in two minds whether to carry on at that stage but decided it might just be a one off so I let the game continue.’
However a few minutes later further missiles, including more fireworks and bizarrely hard boiled eggs, were thrown in the direction of the Kells goalmouth and the terrified goalkeeper.
Gaff recalled, ‘Play was up the other end of the pitch at that stage so I didn’t actually see what happened but I did her a couple of bangs from the fireworks.
‘The ‘keeper came running up and told me more fireworks had been thrown into the penalty area and then handed me a hard boiled egg which he said had been fired in as well.
‘Now this was one hundred percent hard boiled as I tried to break it and couldn’t if it had hit anyone on the head or face they’d have been hurt that’s for sure.
‘ Obviously I was more concerned about the firecrackers as they could have burned anyone they struck, so in the interest of the safety of the players I called the game off.’
The antisocial behaviour arose after a large group gathered outside the perimeter fence.
The items were thrown at members of both clubs and the youths ignored pleas to stop.
No spectators were allowed within the grounds due to current Covid-19 regulations.
OMP Utd is expected to make a full statement on the club website later today.
Meanwhile eyewitnesses have told Meath Live that Kells players were attacked after the game as they made their way to their cars.
One said, ‘As the players went to leave a number of young lads began verbally intimidating them and then started throwing eggs at them.
‘A lot of them stood in front of the cars to stop them from leaving until the main gang arrived, they were carrying what looked like hurleys and at that stage, a barrage of eggs and stones were fired in the players direction.
‘In the rush to get everyone out safely a couple of parents got isolated from the main group and were verbally threatened, it was frightening, to put it mildly.’
A NECSL spokesman said, ‘We will wait until we receive the referees report before deciding what action is appropriate.’