Louth star O'Brien gets green light to play part in Meath clash
Louth defender John O'Brien has been cleared to feature in Saturday's top All-Ireland first- round football qualifier with Meath after his recent spell abroad.
O'Brien had been technically suspended for 48 weeks after playing illegally for the Donegal club in Boston, where had been based for a few months prior to his return to Ireland three weeks before Louth's Leinster championship defeat to Carlow in Portlaoise last week.
But the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC), who imposed the suspension on him because he hadn't been registered properly, later recommended to the Central Appeals Committee (CAC) that O'Brien should be reinstated as he had not been registered properly in Boston.
CAC's finding to reinstate him was approved at a Central Council meeting on Saturday.
O'Brien, an All Star nominee last year, emigrated to Australia during the winter with his Louth colleague Mick Fanning. Another Louth player Brian White also travelled to Australia around the same time.
After a few months in Australia O'Brien and Fanning made their way to Boston, but came home well ahead of schedule and Fanning was cleared to play against Carlow.
O'Brien's reinstatement has been welcomed by Louth boss Peter Fitzpatrick, who must now decide whether to start him on Saturday.
"Having a player of John's calibre is obviously very welcome for us," said Fitzpatrick. "He was one of our best players in 2010."
Louth report no injury concerns ahead of arguably the most interesting draw the qualifiers have thrown up since their inception in 2001.
Meath do have a concern over Stephen Bray, who pulled a hamstring in a club match last week and is rated "doubtful" by his manager Seamus McEnaney.
"He's our biggest concern and has only taken part in rehabilitative training since it happened," he said.
Graham Geraghty is also expected to recover after sustaining a knock in training and is sure to feature in the latter stages of the game at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Meath have welcomed Peadar Byrne back after his nine-month suspension expired in recent weeks. Byrne's return will give Meath some options, especially with Brian Farrell failing to have his red card rescinded last week.
Meath, like Louth, are likely to field a changed team from the last day, with Mark Ward or possibly Shane O'Rourke starting at midfield.
There is also the possibility of Paddy O'Rourke, who started as a full-forward against Kildare, being restored to goalkeeper.