Despite evidence of racial abuse and gestures made in last weekend’s ugly Leinster minor semi-final win in Navan, Westmeath’s county board has refused to comment on the incident prior to a disciplinary hearing in Portlaoise last night [Thursday July 11].
“Our big concern at the moment is to get the red card rescinded, and then whatever step we have to take from there we’ll take, but I can’t say anything at the moment that might make it more difficult for the poor lad,” said county board chairman Sean Sheridan prior to the hearing in Portlaoise at 7.30pm last night (July 11 ).
He confirmed the county board has video of the match, but wouldn’t say whether it confirmed the allegations of racist abuse.
“When I get tonight over I’ll go on full record, but all I want now is to get this young fella back for Sunday,” he added.
He was referring to the attempt by Westmeath GAA to have Israel (Izzy ) Illunga, the county minor full-back from Castletown-Finea who was sent off in the fractious derby in Pairc Tailteann last Saturday evening be made available for the Leinster minor final against Kildare on Sunday.
“In my opinion he’ll be fierce lucky to play on Sunday. He definitely swung at a lad, but I don’t think he hit the fella who was making the monkey gestures at him, more’s the pity,” said one man who was at the game.
“The Meath boys thought this was going to be an easy game at home, and when the Westmeath boys started putting it up to them, all this started. They didn’t like the lads throwing them around. I hoped it was the colour of the jersey rather than the colour of their faces, but you don’t know,” said a long-time supporter.
“If it was someone from Westmeath I’d report them to the Guards,” he added.
Another witness, who has attended county matches for over 30 years, was asked if the behaviour of the crowd was just anti-Westmeath rather than racist, and he scoffed: “They were shouting ‘Go back to the jungle’ at him, and I don’t think they’d be saying that to a gossin from Moate”.
“It was nasty in the stand. They were very racist and abusive. They’re an argumentative lot,” he said.
Meath officials said they had received no official complaint, while Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly would not be drawn on the issue.
“As ever with cases like this, we won’t be commenting publicly until the process has run its course,” he said.