12 May 2005 Edition

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Soccer team pulls out after sectarian attack

A nationalist soccer team based in Carnlough, County Antrim, has pulled out of the junior league after a loyalist mob attacked their bus, breaking windows and injuring some of the players as they left a football tournament in Ballymena on Saturday 7 May.

Four team members suffered cuts and bruises in what was described as a sustained attack, after the 30-strong crowd pelted the bus at the entrance to the loyalist Ballykeel Estate.

Assistant team manager Malachy McKinley, who was driving the vehicle, said children on the bus were screaming "get out of here, get out of here".

"I couldn't get on to the main road because there were cars coming. A lot of passing cars saw what was happening and I saw by the faces of the drivers that they were shocked by what they were witnessing."

The football club has decided to withdraw from the league rather than put the young players in danger of further loyalist attack.

North Antrim Sinn Féin Assembly member Philip McGuigan said it seems to be an emerging trend for loyalists to attack nationalist soccer teams in the Ballymena area.

"We could have been looking at something very serious if the driver of the bus hadn't driven out of this frightening situation," he said. "This is just the latest in a line of sectarian attacks against nationalist teams and if something is not done by loyalist politicians and community workers to put a stop to them, someone is going to be seriously injured or even killed."

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