Leinster chiefs show no mercy
Leinster Council have put down a firm early-season disciplinary marker by hitting Kildare and Laois heavily in the pocket for the disgraceful brawl that marred their O'Byrne Cup game last Sunday.
As expected, six of the seven players sent off in the game are set to receive suspensions of a minimum of four weeks. However, it is believed that the player hit hardest -- Kildare's Morgan O'Flaherty -- will be appealing his eight-week ban on the basis that the referee mis-read the jersey numbers and incorrectly identified him.
Leinster's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) have wasted no time in making an example of the incident by fining both boards €7,000 for their players' part in the short but explosive fracas.
They also recommended that O'Flaherty serve an eight-week ban and that five other players -- four from Laois and one from Kildare -- get four weeks each for "contributing to a melee".
The one-month suspensions were no surprise, considering that the six players were given straight red cards, which earns a minimum four weeks' ban. But O'Flaherty is expected to strenuously appeal the allegation of "kicking with minimal force" for which he has been reported.
And it is believed he will argue that he was singled out incorrectly in a case of mistaken identity.
A two-month suspension at this time would seriously affect his season as it would put him out of the first four rounds of the National League as well as the Lilywhites' remaining O'Byrne Cup games, starting with Sunday's semi-final against Louth in Newbridge.
The proposed four-week suspensions for Kildare's John Doyle and Laois quartet Billy Sheehan, Peter O'Leary, Denis Booth and Kevin Meaney will keep them all out of the first two rounds of the National League and mean that Lilywhites' captain Doyle is also ruled out of their remaining O'Byrne Cup games.
Kildare officials met with their players last night to ascertain if they wished to appeal their suspensions; Laois will be talking to theirs over the next 24 hours.
"There is a suggestion of mistaken identity in one case," Kildare chairman Padraig Ashe said yesterday. "Procedurally, any appeals have to be taken by players themselves. It is up to them to decide what they want to do so we are meeting them first to ascertain what they wish to do."
Ashe said that Kildare officials will also meet separately to decide if they will appeal the heavy fine, which, in the current economic climate, is something both counties can ill afford.
He also confirmed that Kildare do have a video of the game which was being filmed "for tactical purposes".
Ashe said he has not yet seen it and is not aware whether it would be favourable to any subsequent appeal but he said Kildare will be reviewing it to see if it can throw any light on matters.
Laois County Board usually have a cameraman videoing their matches but, on this occasion, he was absent.
Laois Chairman Brian Allen said they will also consult thoroughly with their players before deciding their next step but it looks unlikely that they will appeal their suspensions, whatever about the fine.
Leinster Council did not seek a copy of the Kildare video and worked solely off the match report of experienced Wexford referee Syl Doyle when their CCCC met on Wednesday night.
The players and county boards all have the option of appealing their punishment (suspensions and fines) and have three days from the time of receiving official notification (lunchtime yesterday) to request a hearing with Leinster's Central Hearings Committee.
If they do not seek a hearing their punishments will stand; in all cases except O'Flaherty's, this looks increasingly likely.
Doyle, O'Flaherty, Meaney, Sheehan and O'Leary all received their marching orders after a free-for-all broke out just before half time. It was sparked off by an off-the-ball incident involving Kildare's Ronan Sweeney and Laois' Brendan Quigley, which was not dealt with at all by match officials.
That happened behind the referee's back when he delayed a throw-in and it appears to have been the touch-paper that lit the flame that kicked off the brawl -- which was entirely out of keeping with the preceding spirit of the game.
Booth was sent off in a separate, subsequent second-half incident when he and Dermot Earley tangled.
Of the seven players sent off, only Kildare's Padraig O'Neill escaped suspension, because his late dismissal was for a second yellow card.
Laois and Kildare are in Division 2 of the NFL and are due to meet, in Portlaoise, in the sixth round in late March.
Kildare are due to play Down, Tipperary, Donegal and Armagh in their first four League games, starting with a home tie against the Mournes on Sunday week while Laois open with a home game against Tipperary and are away to Donegal a week later.