Dublin and Donegal criticised for ‘biting’ controversy

Duffy accuses counties of lacking leadership and damaging association’s reputation

GAA director general Páraic Duffy and president Liam Ó Néill during the  press conference for the publication of the association’s annual report at Croke Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.

GAA director general Páraic Duffy and president Liam Ó Néill during the press conference for the publication of the association’s annual report at Croke Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.


The controversy caused last April by allegations of biting against a Dublin player in the league match with Donegal has been described as “one of the low points of 2013” by the GAA’s director general, who also roundly criticises both counties for addressing the matter “solely in terms of their own interests”.

In his annual report Páraic Duffy strenuously defends the GAA’s disciplinary structures, which he believes were let down by the counties involved.

“There is agreement on the fact that, during the game, Donegal player Patrick McBrearty sustained a severe bite to his arm,” he says although Dublin contested the charge at the time. “That was a disgusting and shocking incident in itself, but what is just as reprehensible is that no one could be held to account for what happened. The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) investigated the matter as thoroughly as possible, but was greatly hindered by the absence of video and other evidence.

“The CCCC, therefore, was reliant on the integrity of those involved to play their part in ensuring that justice was served. However, no one was proved to have inflicted the bite simply because no one admitted to having done so and because the player who was bitten decided not to attend a hearing on the case.

“The counties involved may have chosen to deal with this incident solely in terms of their own interests; be that as it may, they did not emerge with any credit and succeeded only in damaging the reputation of the association.

‘Unfair criticism’
“It also brought unfair and totally unjustified criticism on our disciplinary system. The CCCC and the Central Hearings Committee did everything within their power to ensure that the perpetrator was held to account. But the responsibility for limiting the damage to the reputation of the association lay with players, team officials and county committee officers.

“Leadership was required from the counties involved to protect the good name of the association: it is disappointing that it was not forthcoming.”

At the media launch of his report Duffy was asked about a similar allegation against Dublin in respect of a recent O’Byrne Cup match with Dublin City University, a matter still in process with the Leinster Council.

“I actually wrote that piece last Friday week (before the Dublin-DCU match). I don’t want to comment any more on that because that issue is currently being dealt with by the Leinster Council.”

Also under the heading of “discipline” he expressed disquiet at the manner in which some red cards had been rescinded last year, pointing out that the burden of proof in these matters was demanding

‘Factual matters’
“Rule 7.3 (z) (vi) states that a ‘Referee’s Report, including any clarifications thereto, shall be presumed to be correct in all factual matters and may only be rebutted where unedited video or other compelling evidence contradicts it’.

“The Disciplinary Handbook spells out clearly that ‘compelling evidence’ is not simply the opinion of a county or provincial official present at the game, or an admission by another player that it was he who committed the infraction

“There has been a sufficient number of questionable rescindments of late to justify a concern that we are in danger of sliding back to a time when players were cleared on the flimsiest of evidence, simply to make them available for the next big game. This cannot be allowed to happen.”

In conclusion to his report the director general acknowledges that some issues perennially arise in his reports and deals at length with the ongoing crisis over club fixtures and the frequency with which counties shelve their championships to accommodate their county teams.

“I would suggest, we can be accused of paying lip-service to the crucial role of clubs in the association – we applaud our clubs yet we continue to fail to introduce measures, or fail to enforce measures that have been introduced, that would provide the club player with a coherent calendar of fixtures in advance of the season. Is there not more than a hint of hypocrisy in our celebration of the club while refusing its players a fair and reasonable calendar of fixtures?”

One of his suggested solutions is to deny county champions representation in the provincial and All-Ireland championships if they haven’t qualified by the first Sunday in October.