A COURT has heard a Ballymena United football fan swung a punch at a Coleraine player after entering the pitch during a Christmas holidays derby match.
Three football supporters have pleaded guilty to invading the pitch during the Irish Premiership game between Ballymena United and Coleraine at Ballymena Showgrounds.
They are Melvin Carleton (58), of Bannview Park in Ballymoney; Lee Fleming (34), of Dreen Road, Rasharkin and Daniel White (27), of Park View, Ballymoney.
They each admitted a charge of 'going onto a playing area during a match'.
The details of the charge were that on December 27 last year 'without lawful authority or lawful excuse, during the period of a regulated match, went onto the playing area, or an area adjacent to the playing area to which spectators are not generally admitted, contrary to Section 38 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011'.
A number of people ran onto the playing area during stoppage time when Ballymena United scored a winning goal in a 2-1 win.
A prosecutor told Ballymena Magistrates' Court, on Thursday, the three defendants ran onto "playing area" during stoppage time after Ballymena United had "just scored against the run of play".
She said, Court News NI can report, Ballymena United players had "ran across to their fans".
A report at the time said Coleraine's Conor McKendry had been injured prior to the goal.
At court, the prosecutor said Ballymena players were celebrating "close to where the Coleraine player was lying on the ground".
The prosecutor said the defendants were Ballymena supporters.
She said the Coleraine player was close to the sideline in front of Ballymena fans.
The court heard Carleton appeared to run towards where the Coleraine player was lying, pushing past a Ballymena player and "bends down and appears to shout or say something to the Coleraine player who was on the ground".
The prosecutor said "Ballymena players then appear to push Mr Carleton back from the Coleraine player".
She added: "Mr Carleton appears to be pushing towards a Coleraine player when another Coleraine player runs towards this group in an attempt to push back Mr Carleton from the injured player who is on the ground".
She said Carleton was "then observed throwing a left-handed punch towards a Coleraine player, the one who ran towards the group".
The prosecutor said: "The Coleraine player to whom Mr Carleton had thrown the punch doesn't wish to make a statement so that matter wasn't progressed".
She said she did not believe the punch connected with the player.
The prosecutor said "footage" showed Fleming running onto the playing area towards the Ballymena players but he did not go near the Coleraine player on the ground.
She said Fleming appeared to "celebrate" with the Ballymena players and did not appear to be disorderly "but simply seems to celebrate the goal being scored".
The prosecutor said White ran towards the Ballymena players and not near the Coleraine player on the ground and "appears to celebrate the goal".
She said she believed the three men were the only ones "identified" as entering the pitch.
The court heard the defendants had no previous convictions.
The prosecutor applied for Football Banning Orders.
District Judge Nigel Broderick adjourned sentencing until the end of May.
- Main picture: Ballymena Showgrounds.