Teenage Larne girl attacked by so-called Ballymena fans

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Officials at Larne FC and Ballymena United have condemned the actions of “thugs” who assaulted a teenage girl after last night’s County Antrim Shield semi-final clash.

Police have launched an investigation after a 15-year-old Larne fan was left hospitalised following the attack, which took place around 10.10pm on Inver Road following Ballymena’s narrow 3-2 victory at Inver Park.

Archie Smyth, chairman of Larne FC, described the incident as “despicable”, but made it clear that Ballymena United was “not to blame”.

He added: “Before the game, we had been told by police that there is a small element of people who go to Ballymena games intent on causing trouble.

“In my eyes, they are not true supporters, and they marred what should have been a great night for the Ballymena fans who came to watch a game of football.

“We are now making moves to get in touch with this girl’s family to ensure she is OK.”

Don Sterling, secretary at Ballymena United, told the Times: “We as a club want to disassociate ourselves from this small group of thugs. They are not real football fans, they are just looking for an excuse to fight.

“Their actions are absolutely disgusting and I hope the face the full rigours of the law.”

Meanwhile, fans on both sides took to the Irish League Supporters online forums to express their outrage at the incident.

Some of the posts read:

- “The Ballymena fans I know and 99.9% of those who attended the game, were there to see their team and to support them. Their behaviour was, and always is, impeccable. For such a small element of wee thugs to be bringing the club some bad publicity is unfortunate and sad.”

- “The Police need to step in and start turning any buses they organise back and not allowing them onto trains etc. Its really getting out of hand, I hope the wee girl that was taken away on an ambulance last night is ok. If this isnt stamped out its only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured and the sad thing is that it will probably be some innocent fan who will suffer.”

- “Fair play to the Ballymena fans condemning the clown(s) involved. For their sake they need identify them and root them out. To leave a girl in hospital makes it a serious incident.”

Larne v Ballymena match report:

CO. ANTRIM SHIELD: A real sickener to be sucker-punched twice - McAlinden