Thursday 24 August 2017

Diarmuid Connolly has two more throws of the dice but odds are against him

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly argues with linesman Ciarán Branagan during their Leinster SFC clash with Carlow. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly argues with linesman Ciarán Branagan during their Leinster SFC clash with Carlow. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Diarmuid Connolly won't have to decide until the weekend whether to take his challenge to a 12-week suspension to the next stage of the GAA's disciplinary process.

Having failed to persuade the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) at a late night sitting on Tuesday night that the suspension, proposed by the Central Competitions Control Committee, should not stand, he must now decide whether to appeal the verdict.

The Central Appeals Committee (CAC) adjudicates on decisions made by the CHC but will only consider the procedural aspects of the case, as opposed to re-hearing all the evidence.

The Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) is the final port of call for a player who loses at CAC.

Connolly was successful at a DRA hearing prior to the 2015 Dublin-Mayo All-Ireland semi-final replay, when the independent arbitration body cleared him to play on the night before the game.

It was a rare success by a player before the DRA, which was established in 2005 after a number of court actions seeking to have suspensions lifted had been taken.

Attempts to have bans lifted earlier in the process haven't been very successful either.

Over the last three years, only 23pc of CCCC verdicts were overturned by CHC while only 3pc of CHC decisions were rejected on appeal.

Connolly failed at CHC and CAC two years before hitting the jackpot at the DRA hearing. However, the overall figures don't augur well for him if he decides to continue to fight his case this time.

Despite reports last weekend that he was accepting the ban without a hearing, it was no surprise that he chose to take case to CHC.

Otherwise, neither he - nor Dublin - would have had an opportunity to raise issues arising from the aftermath of incident in the Leinster quarter-final clash with Carlow, which led to Connolly's ban.

Dublin are understood to have been unhappy with the subsequent sequence of events.

Connolly's remonstrations with Down linesman Ciaran Branagan drew no action at the time but the incident was subsequently reported by referee Sean Hurson (Tyrone), leading to the St Vincent's man being sanctioned for minor physical interference.

The question arises as to why, if Hurson missed the incident in real time, Branagan didn't draw his attention?

And if Branagan didn't consider it serious enough to demand instant action, what happened subsequently to spark the case against Connolly?

Dublin could also argue that it was curious how, after an official of Branagan's experience ignored the incident, the full force of disciplinary action was later levelled at Connolly.

It now remains to be seen if Connolly accepts the CHC verdict or advances the case further.

If he serves the full ban, he won't be eligible to play again until just before the second All-Ireland semi-final on August 27.

Technically, suspended players are not allowed to train with their colleagues but it's a rule which has never been policed, leaving Connolly free to continue working with the Dublin squad.

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