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Monaghan verdict to force GAA hand

It was an appeal pathway that even Cork's renowned GAA rules supremo and county secretary Frank Murphy refused to take on, but Monaghan were yesterday vindicated for their persistence in challenging a decision to strip them of home advantage for Sunday's League match against Louth.

The GAA's Central Hearings Committee were found to be acting outside the remit of their powers when they ruled that Monaghan should have home advantage taken away for them for the clash, which was originally scheduled for Clones, but was provisionally fixed for Drogheda earlier this week as the outcome of Wednesday night's Disputes Resolution Authority hearing was awaited.

Monaghan had sought a hearing from CHC after the Central Competitions Controls Committee proposed a €5,000 fine for their players' involvement in a fracas in their recent Division 2 match with Kildare in Clones.

The CHC surprisingly decided to take home advantage away from Monaghan as an alternative punishment -- a decision that convinced Kildare and Armagh, whose players were involved in a similar skirmish with Cork the previous week, to accept the CCCC's proposal of a €5,000 fine.

The 'escalation' of the punishment was seen as a significant stepping up of the effort by the GAA to stamp out disorderly conduct at the highest level.

Cork also sought a hearing and they too were stripped of home advantage for their League match against Laois tomorrow; the game will now be played in Portlaoise instead of Pairc Ui Rinn.

Having accepted the original CHC ruling and taken the decision not to appeal, Cork officers were not commenting on the Monaghan case yesterday.

If the Rebels were to lose in Portlaoise, they may rue the decision not to appeal and seek DRA judgment.

The decision will be viewed as a setback for the CHC and the GAA's unspoken 'get tough' policy on brawls -- which stemmed from the All-Ireland club JFC semi-final involving Dromid Pearses and Derrytresk in January -- given that it was the first time they had gone down the 'home venue' route.

At county level, taking home venue away from clubs is a common enough punishment, but the DRA's opinion on this will inevitably trigger rule and by-law changes across the country.

The DRA has not published the full judgment from Wednesday's five-hour hearing, but the basis of Monaghan's challenge was that there was no provision in the rule book for stripping a team of home venue and that the CHC didn't have powers to decide on venues.

This was a function of the CCCC.

Monaghan County Board officials remained tight-lipped about the judgment yesterday, as the case has been sent back to CHC, who can come up with a different penalty.

But Farney manager Eamonn McEneaney said a "wrong had been righted" and praised the board for their persistence in submitting their case for arbitration.

"I'm not sure of the details of the judgment, but what Monaghan based their case on was the absence of provision of such a punishment in the rule book," he said.

"There was no prior warning that this could happen.

"If the CCCC (rather than the CHC) had decided to take home venue from us for the match, then it might have been a different story. We may not have had a case.

"I'd like to reiterate that I don't condone what happened in Clones. And I think that what the CHC tried (taking home advantage from Monaghan) will act as a deterrent. But clearly they went about this in the wrong way.

"We always felt the punishment didn't fit the crime in this instance."

The restoration of Clones as a venue should be worth in the region of €10,000 to Monaghan when gate receipts, the absence of additional travel costs and other spin-offs from a home game are factored in.

The outcome of this judgment could mean potential rule changes for the GAA if they want to go down the route of 'punishment by venue' again.

It is possible that in future cases, if the CCCC decides to strip a team of home advantage in a match, it will stick.

Irish Independent

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