GAA ready to ban players on match basis
The GAA is ready to radically overhaul the way suspensions are served on its players.
A motion is heading to Congress next month that proposes to end the practice of time suspensions. Instead, suspensions will be based on matches -- this is seen as a more equitable way of dealing with indiscipline.
GAA president Christy Cooney confirmed yesterday that the motion had been framed but declined to give details. However, it is understood that the broad thrust of the changes will mean Category Two suspensions, which currently involve a four-week ban, will, if the motion is passed, carry a one-match ban instead.
And Category Three offences, which carry a current eight-week penalty, will involve missing two matches instead.
Both types of offences would remain code and level sensitive: in other words, they would apply to either or hurling or football only and at the level -- club, county or college -- the offence was committed at.
For example, if the CHC (Central Hearings Committee) decide that Marc O Se's proposed one-month ban should stand this week after his altercation with Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara, then he will miss Kerry's next two league games, as they fall within four weeks of the Dublin game.
But under the terms of the new system being proposed by Central Council, O Se would only miss Sunday's match against Galway, if the suspension were to stand.
In O'Gara's case he has been charged with a Category Three offence and that carries a two-month or four-week ban.
If his proposed suspension stands, he would miss all of Dublin's four remaining league games and would only return if Dublin reached a league final at the end of April.
But under the terms of the motion, Category Three offences would carry a two-match ban, so O'Gara would be eligible to return in early April. The new system benefits players who find themselves in disciplinary trouble during the busiest parts of the season.
It is possible to miss three matches for a Category Two offence during the league or the qualifier segment of the championship as the games can be played on successive weekends.
But pick up a red card in an All-Ireland final or your last game in a particular competition and you are likely not to miss any game.
However, for the more serious Category Four offences that cover physical altercations with an official, it is likely that time suspensions will remain. The current suspension under this heading is six months.
The imbalance in the current system was highlighted by some revealing statistics last season.
Out of 68 suspensions of four weeks or more handed down at county level in 2009, a total of 18 players effectively never missed a game at all as there was no subsequent game in the competition to apply it to.
Twenty-seven players who received four-week bans missed one game, nine players suspended for four weeks missed two games, and two players suspended for four weeks missed three games.
Of the 16 players suspended for eight weeks, four missed no games, four missed just one game, one missed two matches, one missed three games, five missed four games and one missed five matches.
The motion to go before Congress will propose that the system be put on trial for one year in 2012 at inter-county level. If it is successful then it will apply at club level too, something the GAA president was conscious of yesterday when he spoke on the issue.
"There's a challenge for putting it at club level if it works well. We'd like to have our suspensions uniform in the rulebook and not have it that it's one for inter-county and one for club," he said.