Tiernan McCann is test case for war on cheating
If suspension under ‘discrediting’ rule fails new sanctions will be drafted
The GAA's decision to level a charge against Tyrone's Tiernan McCann is the first phase in a ratcheting up of sanctions against players who cheat.
It's probable that the eight-week ban, proposed by the Central Competitions Control Committee, will be overturned, leading to a change of the rule on cheating.
McCann's proposed suspension comes under the heading of "conduct considered to have discredited the Association", which carries a minimum eight-week ban.
The rules already include "attempting to achieve an advantage by feigning a foul or injury", punishable by a yellow card for first offence and dismissal for a second breach.
That has led to confusion in the McCann case, since referee, Marty Duffy took no action against him following his collapse after Monaghan's Darren Hughes tousled his hair during an incident near the end of Saturday's game.
Hughes was sent off, prompting an outcry over the perceived injustice, which resulted from McCann's unsporting behaviour.
It's understood that the CCCC's argument will be that in addition to feigning injury, McCann attempted to get an opponent sent off, bringing it under the heading of "conduct considered to have discredited the Association."
The catch-all nature of a rarely used provision to prosecute a specific incident during a game will be challenged by Tyrone, on the basis that despite being close to McCann when he went to ground, the referee took no action against him.
And since he dismissed Hughes, the referee will be deemed to have dealt with the totality of the incident, raising questions as to why CCCC re-opened it.
Tyrone will argue that if Duffy had acted at the time of the incident, the only sanction available was the issuing of a yellow card. They will further contend that the rule on discrediting the Association has not previously been used in this manner.
Tyrone will also insist that, in any event, an eight-week ban is far too severe for feigning injury.
McCann's case will go before the Central Hearings Committee and, if the findings go against him, he has the right to take it to the Central Hearings Committee and, if required, the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA).
With Tyrone due to play Kerry on Sunday week, it's likely that the CHC hearing will take place this weekend so as to give McCann time to continue with the disciplinary process if the suspension stands.
If, as expected, McCann is successful, the GAA will review the rule relating to feigning injury.
It's all but meaningless at present, carrying only a yellow card for a first offence. It's highly unlikely that if a player picked up one card for diving, he would risk being sent off for a repeat offence.
So, in effect, players can get away with one case of cheating per game without any real sanction.
There's a widespread view in the GAA that the increasing number of cheating incidents demands a far more rigorous approach. And while the CCCC's hardline stance on McCann may appear excessively harsh, a rule change would not be required if the suspension stood, as no other player would take a similar risk.
However, if McCann is cleared a motion is likely to be drafted for Congress next year, calling for stiffer penalties for cheating and/or trying to get an opponent sent off.
That may involve empowering the CCCC to make retrospective judgements from video evidence, since referees are notoriously reluctant to take action against players for feigning injury in case they get it wrong.
The CCCC's tough line with McCann has provoked anger in Tyrone on the basis that similar incidents have gone unpunished in the past.
As recently as last month, Cork defender Michael Shields went to ground very easily after a Kerry opponent made minimal contact, but no action was taken against either player.
Tyrone are no strangers to disciplinary controversies at this time of year. In 2005, Ryan McMenamin missed an All-Ireland qualifier after being suspended for an incident in the Ulster final against Armagh, which drew a yellow card only.
However, following a video review, it was upgraded to red, a decision which Tyrone challenged on the basis that since the referee had dealt with the incident, it could not be revisited.
The DRA found in Tyrone's favour; McMenamin was reinstated and went on to play a significant role in their march to a second All-Ireland title.