GAA deny easing back in disciplinary action
DESPITE a spate of let-offs in recent weeks, there is no easing of the disciplinary regime for players or managers who take their cases to the Central Hearings Committee (CHC), the GAA has insisted.
Four players plus Waterford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald have either had dismissals rescinded or a proposed suspension reduced by the CHC.
However, CHC chairman Liam Keane said there had been no change of policy in how cases were dealt with and insisted that precisely the same standards applied as in recent years.
JJ Delaney (Kilkenny), Cormac McGuinness (Meath) and Kevin Nolan (Kilmacud Crokes) were all found to have been sent off in error on second yellow cards when only one card was merited.
Kilkenny and Meath won the league games in question but Kilmacud lost the All-Ireland club SFC semi-final to Crossmaglen. Nolan was sent off in the 21st minute so Kilmacud could justifiably argue that his dismissal played a significant part in their two-point defeat.
Crossmaglen's Danny O'Callaghan was facing a four-week ban after incurring a straight red card in the same game but was eligible to play in the club final after the CHC deemed him guilty of a lesser offence than for what he was sent off.
Fitzgerald was facing a 12-week ban for remarks made to the referee after the Waterford-Tipperary NHL game but had it cut to four after the CHC found that part of the allegations against him were unproven.
While not commenting on individual cases, Keane said that nothing should be read into specific decisions taken from an extensive list of hearings.
"We treat each case on its merits and apply the rules as fairly as we possibly can," he said. "In fairness to referees, they have to make decisions based on what they see from a certain angle at the time but sometimes camera angles present a different view, which has to be taken into account."
Meanwhile, Keane remains opposed to a proposal emanating from Legan Sarsfields, home club of former All-Ireland referee John Bannon, that referees should not be asked to revisit decisions following a video review by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC).
The CCCC is empowered to send video clips to a referee, asking if he felt he should have dealt with a particular incident differently. Bannon argues that the policy is unfair and that if the CCCC wants to open a case they should do so of their volition without going back to the referee.
However, Keane contends that, far from making life easier on referees, that would reduce their authority.
"My view is that respect for the primacy of the referee is paramount," he said. "The position of the referee as the arbiter on the field of play has to be respected.
"If an incident occurs which the CCCC feel should be revisited, it's appropriate that they consult the man who made the decision.
"And if a transgression has occurred which, for some reason, the referee may not have seen, it's right to check with him first before taking any action. John and myself are actually quite close in this whole area but we differ on how it should apply."
The Legan Sarsfields motion will come before Congress for a second successive year next month, having been beaten 12 months ago.
On the use of video evidence, there are widely divergent views over whether players from the stronger counties suffer more because their games feature more regularly on TV than those from the lower divisions.
Top players argue that they are being penalised because the CCCC has access to professional video footage but Keane contends that it's a two-way street.
"When it comes to using video evidence to exonerate players, those in the higher divisions can use better-quality footage since their games are covered by TV," he said.
"That's usually not available to players in the lower divisions, who have to rely on a video being used by team management. It can often be a single, hand-held camera, which doesn't always produce a clear view of an incident."