Ballymena United hit back at 'false and unfounded allegations' following incident at Warrenpoint Town

Warrenpoint Twon goalkeeper Mark Byrne leaves the pitch
Warrenpoint Twon goalkeeper Mark Byrne leaves the pitch

Ballymena United have responded to "a number of false and unfounded allegations" contained in the statement released by Warrenpoint Town following the mass brawl in Saturday’s Irish Cup tie between the two sides at Milltown.

Town chairman Connaire McGreevy claimed video footage shows goalkeeper Mark Byrne was “physically assaulted” leading up to the incident.

McGreevy also alleged Byrne was subjected to "sectarian verbal abuse".

The Sky Blues though have released a statement of their own were they state they are 'disappointed' with the Warrenpoint statement calling it "highly prejudicial".

The statement read: "Ballymena United Football Club (BUFC) is extremely disappointed at the contents of the statement issued by Warrenpoint FC in relation to the events at Milltown on Saturday.

"Our Club did not intend to make any comment until the IFA investigation was concluded but, in light of the highly prejudicial public comments made by Warrenpoint FC, we feel that we must highlight a number of false and unfounded allegations contained in the statement.

"A number of BUFC supporters, including Club officials, were standing close to the area where the incident took place and all those spoken to confirm the following:

"1. Having been present at the match, and from reading the referee match report, spoken to the IFA match observer and reading the reporting from the independent media present, we have yet to hear or see any evidence or reference to sectarian abuse directed at the keeper other than the allegation from Warrenpoint.

"2. The Warrenpoint goalkeeper was not assaulted. Video footage clearly shows that the Warrenpoint goalkeeper had left the field of play and entered the spectator area where he was seen to throw a number of punches. Our Club is also aware of an incident involving the goalkeeper allegedly spitting at a supporter, caught on camera, which occurred prior to this which raised tensions in the crowd and this information will be passed to the IFA.

"3. Ballymena United supporters did not jump the fence as alleged. The fence collapsed when the goal was being celebrated, some five minutes before the assault on our supporters, causing a number of spectators to fall forward. This is not the first time that a fence has collapsed at Milltown and there is clearly a health and safety issue which needs to be addressed by the home club.

"4. The Club have received reports of Ballymena United supporters having received injuries as the result of alleged serious assaults, including a child, and are aware that the PSNI are investigating same. One supporter received a broken nose, as confirmed by medical professionals, whilst two others have come forward confirming injuries as a result of the goalkeepers actions.

"Ballymena United will assist the IFA in carrying out their investigation and we are confident that, once the facts are established, our Club and its supporters will be exonerated."

Police have stated “enquiries are continuing” following a report of an assault on Saturday afternoon.

The Irish Football Association have confirmed plans for the Disciplinary Committee to meet this month to review the situation.

The brawl took place following a Northern Ireland Football League statement on Friday highlighting discussions over “increased alleged incidents of unacceptable spectator behaviour”.