THE top of the table clash between Lurgan Celtic and Knockbreda last Saturday was called off due to a serious overnight act of vandalism which saw pieces of broken glass strewn over a number of different areas of the playing surface at Knockrammer Park.
The glass was discovered roughly an hour prior to kick off.
Despite the efforts of many people clearing the pitch it was finally decided after much consultation that there could not be a 100% guarantee that every piece of glass had been found and in the circumstances due to health and safety factors it was reluctantly decided to call the game off.
“This was a disgraceful act of wanton destruction and no-one can understand why this happened at Knockrammer Park,” said a spokesman for the club. “Celtic share the ground with Oxford/Sunnyside and a lot of youngsters from the community take part in the academy coaching scheme after school on weekdays and some weekend mornings although luckily they do their sessions off the main pitch. It is difficult to understand the mindset of anyone who would do this sort of thing.
“One of the Celtic players drove past the ground on Friday night around midnight and saw about 10 to 12 young people hanging around the entrance to the ground.
“On Friday the ground was marked out and prepared for the game and the playing surface was free of anything so it must have happened between 4.00pm on Friday and 12.50pm on Saturday when it was first discovered prior to both sides warming up.”
Lurgan Celtic, who recently qualified for the final of the Radcliffe Cup for the second year in a row as well as sharing the top spot in the league with Knockbreda, were looking forward to the clash and this was a bitter disappointment to everyone connected with both clubs, however players welfare has to be paramount in this sort of situation.
Despite the game not taking place Celtic had to pay the officials half of the match fee and all of their travelling expenses, as is the case when a game is postponed. This amounted to a sum in excess of £100 so without gate receipts to cover this the club have to bear the brunt of the cost at time when most, if not all clubs in the Irish League from top to bottom are having it tough financially.
Referees’ chief Alan Snoddy was contacted and informed of the situation and he agreed with the decision by match referee Damian Basketfield that the game simply could not go ahead under the circumstances and this week the ground will have to be thoroughly searched before the game scheduled for this Saturday against Queens University can go ahead.
Sinn Féin Councillor Johnny McGibbon has expressed his shock and anger at the vandalism.
“It is shocking that a facility like that at Knockramner would be attacked in this way. Both Oxford/Sunnyside and Lurgan Celtic are well respected clubs and provide important sporting services for our community. This glass attack will outrage all sports fans in the area. We hope disruption to the clubs will be to a minimum, so they can get on with the great work they already do.”
Police in Lurgan have expressed their disgust at the attack.
Sergeant Duncan McBain, Lurgan Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “It is extremely disappointing that someone has attacked a local sporting organisation in this way. This football ground serves a number of local teams and provides facilities for many young people.
“Not only has this incident prevented games being played over the last weekend but it also has the potential to close down these facilities for some time, affecting many in the local community.
“I ask anyone with information in relation to this incident to contact us in Lurgan on 0845 600 8000.”
If you prefer you can contact the independent Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.