Sunday 25 September 2016

Disciplinary system not weakened by Connolly and Keane cases - Duffy

Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30

Director-general Paraic Duffy. Photo: Sportsfile
Director-general Paraic Duffy. Photo: Sportsfile

The decisions to rescind and set aside one-match bans imposed on Mayo's Kevin Keane and Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly for red cards last August may have "surprised" Paraic Duffy but that doesn't point to a "fundamental weakness" in the GAA's disciplinary system, accopding to the director-general.

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Duffy takes issue in his annual report with general commentary in reaction to these decisions that led to calls for abandoning the current systems because they 'weren't fit for purpose'.

"I may have been surprised by the decisions announced in the specific cases mentioned - just as I have been often surprised, as we all have been, by decisions made by disciplinary bodies outside of the GAA and even by the courts," he writes.

"But we are surprised in these cases only because we are not privy to the debate or to considerations taken into account in reaching a decision. And sometimes, too, decision-makers, as fallible human beings, will just get it wrong."

The report points to statistics relating to disciplinary cases over the last five years (2011-15). The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) has proposed 1,132 penalties arising from inter-county cases, and from these 146 have sought hearings.

There have been 50 cases where the proposed penalty was overturned. Three were sent on the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA), with the decision on Connolly the only decision to be overturned.

Yet scrutiny of suspensions imposed for big August/September games over the same period shows that the odds on them 'sticking' are much lower, with Keane, Connolly last year and in 2011, Mayo's Lee Keegan in 2014 and Tyrone's Conor Gormley in 2013 all having one-match bans rescinded.

Tyrone's Martin Penrose did miss the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo because of suspension.

In relation to the Connolly case, Duffy wonders if the same furore would have developed if it had been another player.

"Commentators were entitled to question the DRA decision, but it was lazy headline-seeking commentary to suggest that our disciplinary structures are not fit for purpose," he writes.

He had "a little bit of sympathy" for the Dublin forward and felt his performance against Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final replay might have been affected by the week he had, adding: "I think Diarmuid Connolly maybe gets a tough press sometimes."

Duffy accuses Dublin and Armagh officials of "a failure of leadership" after an investigation into the facial injury sustained by Davey Byrne in a challenge match between the counties last June.

Describing it as "one of the most disappointing events of the past year" Duffy writes: "When the injured player, along with officials from both counties who were present at the game, attended a CCCC meeting called to investigate the incidents prior to throw-in at the game, nobody could (or would) provide any information that would have allowed appropriate disciplinary action to be taken.

Unwillingness

"Given the unwillingness of either county to co-operate in identifying any of the guilty parties, the only option available to CCCC was the proposal of a fine reduced to a penalty that was subsequently imposed at a hearing.

"It will probably be considered naive on my part to criticise the position taken by the counties, but the misguided loyalty that protects players who engage in violent behaviour on the pitch can only be seen, by those concerned with the good of the game, as a failure of the leadership.

"Group solidarity is one thing; a code of silence that condones violence is another."

Irish Independent

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