Suspension stands as O'Connell appeal dismissed
Munster's miserable week continued yesterday when their appeal against Paul O'Connell's ban was dismissed by the Heineken Cup organisers ERC.
Tony McGahan's side had desperately wanted their talisman to get some match practice ahead of their Heineken Cup must-win trip to Toulon in January.
But the ERC appeals panel ruled that the original decision to suspend the former Lions captain for four weeks after cuffing Ospreys forward Jonathan Thomas should stand.
O'Connell will now be idle until Munster's trip to Toulon in three weeks' time, when anything other than a victory will condemn the two-time winners to elimination from the knock-out stages for the first time in 13 years.
Yesterday's disappointment comes hot on the heels of the embarrassing arrest of Munster's highest-paid import, former All Blacks winger Doug Howlett, following a party in Kilkenny earlier this week.
Also, Paul Warwick confirmed on Monday, just two days after a 19-15 Heineken Cup defeat to the Ospreys, that he wants to leave the club after rejecting a new contract.
O'Connell's legal team had argued in the original hearing that a yellow card should have sufficed for an offence they maintained was not deliberate.
"The independent appeal committee appointed to hear the appeal brought by Munster player Paul O'Connell has dismissed the player's appeal," said an ERC statement.
"The appeal hearing was held by conference call today (Thursday, December 23, 2010). Mr O'Connell appealed against both the finding of foul play and the four-week sanction imposed at an independent disciplinary hearing as a result of the red card he received during the Heineken Cup Pool 3 match against the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Sunday, December 12, 2010.
"At the independent disciplinary hearing on December 16, 2010, the independent judicial officer, Jeff Blackett (England), upheld the red card and determined that the act had been deliberate but that there had been no intention to injure.
"The independent appeal committee, chaired by Professor Lorne Crerar (Scotland) and also comprising Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and Simon Thomas (Wales) heard submissions from Mr O'Connell, his solicitor, Donal Spring, and from ERC disciplinary officer Roger O'Connor.
"The committee found that Mr O'Connell had not demonstrated that the original decision had been in error or that it should be overturned or varied, and therefore dismissed the appeal.
"Mr O'Connell will be free to play from January 10, 2011, as per the original decision."
Meanwhile, Connacht's St Stephen's Day Magners League clash against Munster at the Sportsgrounds has been moved to Monday, December 27 at 6.10 because of the inclement weather.