Monday 22 January 2018

Martin Breheny: Truth hits home in another fine mess

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

EAMONN McENEANEY would be forgiven for believing that the football gods don't like him very much. And, if he were really paranoid, he might even suspect that the disciplinary bods aren't very fond of him either.

In 1985, he was, by a distance, the leading centre-forward candidate for the All Stars team, only to lose out on a daft technicality which rendered players who had been sent off ineligible for selection.

It was an unusually complex case as his dismissal resulted from a trivial incident in a seven-a-side game. He was immediately cleared to play in the remainder of the competition, only to be sanctioned some time later.

Bureaucracy won out in a flawed system, costing McEneaney an All Star award in a season when he was one of the main influences on a Monaghan team that won NFL and Ulster titles.

Now, 27 years on, McEneaney is managing a Monaghan team that became the first to lose home advantage for a League game after challenging a €5,000 fine, imposed following an investigation into incidents in their game with Kildare a few weeks back.

They were joined last weekend by Cork, who will forfeit home advantage against Laois next month, arising from an investigation into their game with Armagh.

However, there's a distinct difference, as Cork knew -- thanks to the Monaghan precedent -- what to expect once they took their case to the Central Hearings Committee (CHC). In the circumstances, their decision to proceed to the CHC was baffling.

Kildare and Armagh originally sought to have their €5,000 fines considered by the CHC but beat a judicious retreat once they saw what happened to Monaghan.

There's actually a lot of merit in the switch of emphasis from fines to losing home advantage since the former hits county boards only, while the latter impacts on the players who were involved in the melees.

Players don't care if boards are fined but might be more careful about indulging in incidents that could cost them home advantage.

However, the manner in which the practice of imposing fines, as used by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) morphed into conceding home advantage, when dealt with by CHC, has left many people confused.

I have no doubt that the CHC was operating well within its powers when imposing the latter sanction, but some interesting questions still arise.

Is there no connect between the CCCC and the CHC when it comes to sanctions for specific offences?

The CCCC imposed financial penalties in recent cases involving melees, but the CHC opted for the use of venues as a punishment when county boards challenged the fines.

From an outside perspective, it looks odd that one wing of the disciplinary process favours fines while another uses the venue option.

While disciplinary bodies cannot pre-empt what a season may hold, would it not have been helpful if the GAA announced before the League began that the punishment for melees could involve loss of home advantage?

After all, it's not as if melees made an unexpected arrival for the first time in 2012.

Will a team that is due to host a first-round Championship match this summer lose home advantage if they are involved in a melee in their final League game?


If so, it could change the dynamic of the Championship. If not, it would look ridiculous that the punishment for the same offence was different for League and Championship.

Recent developments have thrown up their own anomalies. Kildare and Monaghan were deemed equally guilty for the melee in their League clash, yet the GAA's disciplinary process treated them differently -- weren't Kildare lucky the O'Byrne Cup final was called off because otherwise their case to the CHC would probably have been heard on the same night as Monaghan's.

Similarly with Cork and Armagh, whose punishments for similar offences are different.

That may be procedurally sound as far as the GAA is concerned but, frankly, it looks daft.

The CHC's move to using venue changes as punishment for melees may well prove an ingenious method of solving the melee problem, but it's a pity that its introduction hasn't been smoother. Monaghan certainly got a bumpy ride, which could have a big influence on where they finish in Division 2.

Irish Independent

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