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Ref assault trio given 48-week bans

Three club players in Galway accused of assaulting a referee will each have to serve bans of almost a year after GAA bosses in Croke Park threw out 12-week suspensions imposed locally.

The three players, from the Mullagh club in Galway, had initially been hit with 48-week bans following an incident in which referee Christy Helebert was assaulted at the end of a county semi-final in October.

Disgraceful scenes erupted at the end of the game, which Loughrea won thanks to a controversial free awarded in the dying moments.

The Galway Competitions Control Committee proposed bans of 48 weeks for the three players -- recently recalled Galway senior squad member Conor Dervan, wing-back John Rafferty and Davey Glennon, an All-Ireland minor winner in September -- but the players, who vehemently denied assaulting the official, requested personal hearings.

The Co Galway Hearings Committee decided to reduce the charge to a category four offence -- abusive behaviour, which carries a 12-week suspension -- which was imposed on the players.

Match official Helebert, a former Galway defender and regarded as a top emerging referee, was incensed at the way the matter was handled in Galway and sent a file on the affair to the National Referees Administration.

The Central Competitions Control Committee in Croke Park examined the case and have now instructed that the players each serve 48-week suspensions.

Mullagh officials met with officers of Galway County Board in Pearse Stadium this week but Galway chairman Gerry Larkin ruled out any further action by his board. "It is a matter for the players and the club to decide what action to take, but it would be difficult for another Galway committee to hear any appeal," said Larkin.

Meanwhile, Ger Mahon's hopes of playing his way back into the Galway squad have been dealt a blow following confirmation he will be suspended for all three pool games in the Fitzgibbon Cup.

The 23-year old, dropped by John McIntyre when Galway's new squad was announced in November, was unsuccessful on Monday night in appealing a four-week suspension.

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