WHILE match bans are finally being introduced in this year's Allianz Leagues and the championships, time-based suspensions still exist and will continue to apply for more serious offences and at non-senior level.
The GAA clarified yesterday that match bans of one to two games will apply for Category II and III offences in senior inter-county games from February onwards.
The new game bans will also be increased for repeat offences, and will carry over from the league into the championship and from this year's championship into next year's National Leagues.
But the GAA has stressed that time bans will still apply for more serious offences (Category IV and V), and that Category IV and V bans of 12 weeks and upwards will still rule a player out of playing for any team during his suspension.
There has long been a call for match-based bans as a more equitable disciplinary system, and they are finally being introduced, but only at senior inter-county level this year. Minimum one and two-game suspensions will replace the current minimum four and eight-week suspensions for Category II and III infractions respectively at senior inter-county level.
Match bans are not being introduced until the start of the leagues, but that does not mean that players will escape unscathed if they are red-carded in the current subsidiary inter-provincial competitions.
If a player gets a red card for a Category II or III offence playing in the O'Byrne or McKenna Cup, for example, he will still get a minimum four-week suspension and would miss all inter-county games in that period, including the league if relevant.
The match bans are grade and code specific, so if an U-21 player is sent off while playing during the Allianz Hurling League, his match ban will only apply to senior inter-county hurling and not affect him at any other level, county or club.
A player red-carded for a Category II or III offence while playing at U-21 level will not get a match ban, but he will still receive one of the existing time-based bans which could affect him at senior inter-county level.
Another key change is that any player sent off in the All-Ireland senior finals will carry any resulting match ban into the following year's National League.
Category II offences, which incur one-match bans, include striking or kicking (or attempts to) with minimal force, as well as spitting, contributing to a melee or verbal abuse of match officials.
Category III offences, which will incur a two-match ban, include any attempt to strike or kick with force, any attempted strike with the head, and stamping.