Sunday 22 April 2018

REVEALED - The incident that led to Antrim's Matthew Fitzpatrick getting a 48-week ban that was subsequently quashed

EXCLUSIVE Newsdesk Newsdesk

Here is the incident that has caused uproar in the GAA over the past number of days.

It occurred during an ill-tempered Allianz National Football League game between Antrim and Armagh at the Gaelic Grounds on March 25.

The clip shows Antrim's Matthew Fitzpatrick contesting a hop-ball with an Armagh player in front of the referee, when the ref's attention is drawn elsewhere, Fitzpatrick grapples with the Armagh player before making contact with his opponent's back.

Watch below:

Fitzpatrick had already twice avoided proposed one-match bans arising from an incident but in an unusual development earlier this week, the Central Hearings Committee announced a 48-week ban. The CHC said it had decided that, at a hearing on May 4, Fitzpatrick "gave deliberately false evidence and deliberately misled the hearing" in a breach of Rule 7.3 (aa) (4) of the Official Guide.

At first, a grainy image was sent to Antrim and they were asked to identify a player involved in an off-the-ball incident. A member of the team management and a member of the county board thought it was a player alright, but not Matthew Fitzpatrick.

He won his appeal on the basis that no one could offer a certain identification.

The Central Competitions Control Committee then acquired a short clip and asked Antrim if they could positively identify the player. With the face and number obscured, the identity could not be established and Fitzpatrick won his second appeal.

The CHC requested Fitzpatrick for a third meeting on the incident after obtaining a longer clip. When he identified himself as the player in the footage, he was charged with 'misleading an investigation'.

The 48-week ban was overturned in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Former All-Ireland winner and barrister Joe Brolly led the successful Antrim appeal.

Speaking on Off The Ball on Newstalk this evening, he said: "In truth, the whole thing was embarrassing.

"This was an entirely trivial, unremarkable incident. Basically, this is players jostling under a ball in front of the ref and so whenever Matt was asked, 'Is that you?' He said, 'I genuinely don't know' and that was conflated with 'he's deliberately misled us'".

"I had to ring the boys and say 'look, I think you've sent me the wrong clip' because there's no strike. It looks like there's a small push at the top of the back."

The successful appeal means that Fitzpatrick is free to line out for the Saffron county against Donegal on Sunday in the preliminary round of the Ulster championship.

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