Thursday 14 November 2019

Is discipline falling apart?

James Dolan finds himself isolated and surrounded by Dublin players Philip McMahon, Diarmuid Connolly, and Michael Fitzsimons
James Dolan finds himself isolated and surrounded by Dublin players Philip McMahon, Diarmuid Connolly, and Michael Fitzsimons
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

A long night for the various strands of the GAA's disciplinary process and something of a black night too.

The GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) laid a charge against Tyrone's Tiernan McCann that realistically had little or no chance of sticking when there was already a rule in place to cover the offence he committed.

It was a punt that was never likely to come off and the CCCC are in the line of fire for bringing it about in the first place when the odds were so much against it standing up.

The timing and inconvenience to the county of a hearing in the week of an All-Ireland semi-final is another matter again.

It's sure to prompt a rule change in the quieter months, which was probably the point of the exercise in the first place.

But what darkened the night even more was the earlier case that saw the red card given to Mayo's Kevin Keane, for striking Michael Murphy late in the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Donegal, rescinded. In real time the decision looked a little harsh but on further examination referee David Gough got it spot on.

Technically it was a striking offence and, as there is no qualification in rule for the weight of a strike, it looked a clear-cut case. But the hearings committee found on Wednesday night that the charge of striking was "not proven."

Notably the hearings committee chairman Liam Keane stepped aside because, like Gough, he is from Meath.

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Acknowledging every player's right to a fair hearing, it is still hard to see where this case fell down, an extraordinary twist and one which sets a serious precedent, not just at the highest level but throughout the country. What club can't now draw on this case history as a means of future support?

Somewhere there is growing disconnect between what referees see, what the rules say and how the committees in charge of discipline interpret those decisions and rules.

Keane this year, Lee Keegan last year, Diarmuid Connolly in 2011 - referees and disciplinary officials must be wondering if an August/September penalty is ever going to stick. And if there's any consequence to the action they take.

The GAA's leading officials are sure to be dismayed at this latest turn of events.

In his 2014 Congress report, director-general Paraic Duffy noted concern over the number of red cards being overturned at county and provincial level.

Now it's on his own doorstep.

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