'Donegal and the Dubs damaged reputation of the GAA'
Duffy vents anger at lack of action over biting incident as he urges counties to take more responsibility to protect 'good name' of GAA
With another allegation of biting currently sitting in Dublin's inbox, the timing of GAA director-general Paraic Duffy's comments in his annual report to Congress on a previous allegation involving one of their players is more than a little ironic.
In five previous reports to Congress, the Monaghan official hasn't shirked any difficult topic - from his questioning in 2010 of payments to managers to the cynicism that has afflicted Gaelic football in recent years.
But the bite sustained by Donegal footballer Paddy McBrearty in a league match against Dublin in Ballybofey last April is a subject that has clearly annoyed the GAA's top official and led to arguably his hardest-hitting comments since he took over the position of director-general in February 2008.
Taking both Dublin and Donegal to task for protecting their own interests and "damaging" the Association, Duffy makes it clear in his report that McBrearty sustained a "severe" bite to his arm and the fact that the perpetrator wasn't brought to justice was "reprehensible" in his view.
McBrearty's absence from the Central Hearings Committee meeting at which Dublin sought to defend their player effectively collapsed the Central Competitions Controls Committee (CCCC) proposal for a three-match ban for the Dublin player.
At a subsequent county board meeting, Donegal chairman Sean Dunnion claimed that they did everything possible to convince McBrearty to attend the hearing and said his decision not to go was against the wishes of the county board and team management.
Dublin are currently in the process of responding to requests for further information on the allegation that one of their players bit a DCU opponent during the recent O'Byrne Cup match in Parnell Park.
The allegation was made during the match to referee David Gough, who made reference to it in his report, prompting a full investigation.
Ironically, Duffy's report containing the comments on the McBrearty incident went to the printers on the Friday before the Dublin v DCU game. Duffy describes the McBrearty incident and its fallout as "one of the low points" on 2013.
He says there is "agreement" on the fact that McBrearty sustained "a severe bite to his arm".
Two days after the Ballybofey match, Dublin chairman Andy Kettle suggested it was more of a "bruise" than a "laceration" which a Donegal official had described it as.
"That was a disgusting and shocking incident in itself, but what is just as reprehensible is that no one could be held to account for what happened," Duffy writes.
Duffy defends the role of the CCCC in bringing the case and said they relied on the "integrity" of those involved to ensure justice was served.
"CCCC investigated the matter as thoroughly as possible, but was greatly hindered by the absence of video and other evidence.
"Therefore, they were reliant on the integrity of those involved to play their part in ensuring that justice was served. However, no one was proved to have inflicted the bite, simply because no one admitted to having done so and because the player who was bitten decided not to attend a hearing on the case.
"The counties involved may have chosen to deal with this incident solely in terms of their own interests; be that as it may, they did not emerge with any credit and succeeded only in damaging the reputation of the Association," writes Duffy.
"It also brought unfair and totally unjustified criticism on our disciplinary system. The CCCC and the CHC did everything within their power to ensure that the perpetrator was held to account.
"But the responsibility for limiting the damage to the reputation of the Association lay with players, team officials and county committee officers.
"Leadership was required from the counties involved to protect the good name of the Association - it is disappointing that it was not forthcoming."
Duffy describes the act of biting an opponent as "primitive behaviour" and recalled subsequent concerns expressed by the Medical, Welfare and Scientific Committee.
"Central Council issued a directive that stipulated that such an action would be designated a Category III Infraction, carrying a minimum suspension of eight weeks.
"One can only hope that the application of this directive will be unnecessary as players realise that such primitive behaviour is shameful and dangerous, and that it has no place in Gaelic games."
Meanwhile, Duffy has also called for more frequent penalties against members of team management who question the integrity of referees.
"It seems to me that criticism of referees by team officials is now considered routine and acceptable.
"Despite this, the instances of officials being held to account by disciplinary committees for questioning the integrity of referees are extremely rare."
He believes that the current two-month penalty for "discrediting the Association," the category that this falls under, may be considered too punitive by the relevant committees.
Instead, he proposes a withdrawal of sideline privileges for a number of games which would be "an effective deterrent."
Duffy expresses concern too at the number of red cards that were rescinded at county and provincial level towards the end of 2013, decisions that he suggested did not meet the requirements for "compelling evidence."
"There has been a sufficient number of questionable rescindments of late to justify a concern that we are in danger of sliding back to a time when players were cleared on the flimsiest of evidence, simply to make them available for the next big game. This cannot be allowed to happen.
"We have an obligation to ensure that our hearings committees operate solely within the rules of evidence as set out in the Official Guide."