Saturday 25 May 2019

Martin Breheny: Five-year ban punishes the wrong Derrytresk players

Tempers flare during the now infamous melee between the Derrytresk and Dromid Pearses teams in last month's All-Ireland JFC Club semi-final at O'Moore Park
Tempers flare during the now infamous melee between the Derrytresk and Dromid Pearses teams in last month's All-Ireland JFC Club semi-final at O'Moore Park
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

JUSTICE extended beyond those found guilty of an offence is justice denied. The GAA disciplinary authorities found Derrytresk more culpable than Dromid Pearses for the ugly incidents which marred the AlB All-Ireland JFC semi-final in Portlaoise last month and acted accordingly, suspending more of their players and handing them a heavier fine.

Understandably, Derrytresk considered that unfair, but had to accept, pending an appeal, that the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) and the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) reached their decision on the basis of the evidence before them.

Eight suspensions (later reduced to seven), plus a ¿5,000 fine (later halved to ¿2,500), was a severe punishment, but not anywhere as draconian, or as far-reaching, as the decision to ban Derrytresk from the Ulster and All-Ireland championships for the next five years.

What's more, it's utterly unfair. Apart altogether from punishing the players who didn't misbehave against Dromid, it sentences another generation to a tough sanction for offences in which they had no involvement.

Young Derrytresk men, who may not even have been in Portlaoise for the All-Ireland semi-final, let alone committed any offence, have been told that if they break into a team that wins a Tyrone title over the next five years, they will not be allowed to compete at Ulster or All-Ireland level.

That sanction is more persecution than justice and is most unlikely to be upheld, certainly if it comes before the Disputes Resolution Authority. Is it not utterly bizarre that the club is allowed to play in next Sunday's All-Ireland final, yet won't be permitted to compete in any future championship before 2018? Why punish players who are 15/16-years-old now when they are 20/21?

They should not have to pay for sins committed by others five years earlier.

Presumably, the decision to defer the ban on Derrytresk until next year was taken to ensure that the junior final would proceed next Sunday. Galway champions Clonbur would get no satisfaction whatsoever from being crowned champions on a walkover, while one suspects that replacing Derrytresk with Dromid Pearses wasn't really an option, since the Kerry club were in trouble with Croke Park too.

However, by allowing Derrytresk to proceed in a championship after committing offences which drew multiple suspensions and a hefty fine and barring them in advance from future championships, the GAA's disciplinary system has stretched logic to breaking point.

Would the same sanction apply if a county team committed the offences which drew such wrath on Derrytresk?

Of course not. In fact, the mere suggestion that a county team would be barred from the championship for five years would be dismissed as being utterly ludicrous.

All of which brings us back to justice. Why hit a small club so hard for the future, while, at the same time, allowing them to continue their pursuit of this year's All-Ireland title?

The offences were committed this year, not in 2013-2017, and should have been dealt with accordingly.

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