Armagh's assistant manager Paul Grimley confronts referee Michael Duffy after the game between Laois and Armagh. ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Sectarian Storm

No winners in Portlaoise 'racism' row, says Justin McNulty

Laois manager says it would be “sad” if Ciaran McKeever was to miss Armagh’s championship opener as a result of events in O’Moore Park.

JUSTIN MCNULTY HAS commended Laois’s handling of the sectarian “sledging” controversy, but stressed that there were no winners in the hysteria which followed their Division 1 win against Armagh.

Orchard captain Ciarán McKeever was sent off and Armagh selector Paul Grimley was handed a four-week ban after a fiery league encounter which ended with an Armagh statement that accused Laois of racially taunting their players.

The Armagh County Board subsequently accepted that their strongly-worded condemnation was not an accurate reflection of what happened in Portlaoise, although both counties agreed that there were some “inappropriate verbal exchanges” between the players.

Laois may feel vindicated by the withdrawal of the racial allegations, but speaking to, McNulty said that neither county will find much solace in the war of words.

“I think ultimately neither team were happy with the furore that ensued after that match.

“I’m a proud Armagh man but I’m in Laois to do a job. I know that the Armagh players, the Armagh management team and the Laois players, and the Laois County Board and management team — nobody was happy with what ensued in the press.

The GAA, the Laois County Board and the Armagh County Board have issued a statement. I’ve nothing further to add on the issue other than to say that I have to commend my players and I have to commend the Laois County Board in terms of their control during the whole hysteria.


McKeever must now wait on a judgement from the Central Competitions Control Committee’s decision after they deferred a disciplinary hearing in order to fully investigate his case.

He was free to lead out Armagh in Saturday’s one-point win over Down as a result, but if found guilty at later stage, the centre-back could find himself suspended for the side’s opening Ulster Championship game against Tyrone, an outcome which McNulty would like to avoid.

“Ciaran McKeever’s a player I’ve been to war with,” McNulty said of his former inter-county team-mate.

“He’s a good friend, I like the fella and he’s a fantastic warrior. I think it would be sad if he was to miss out on any championship action as a result of what happened in Portlaoise.

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