All-Ireland minor final ban on hurler lifted

 

Tipperary hurler John Boland may, if selected, play in the All-Ireland minor final against Kilkenny in Croke Park tomorrow, a High Court judge decided yesterday.

Ms Justice Mary Finlay-Geoghegan granted him an injunction restraining the GAA at county and national level from implementing a four-week suspension until further order of the court.

Boland, an 18-year-old student from Toomevara, Co Tipperary, was not in court to hear the judgment but was told on his mobile phone by his father, Seán.

Mr Boland said after the judgment: "I'm dead happy with the outcome and I hope now that he lives up to expectations on the day if he is fielded."

Judge Finlay-Geoghegan said Boland had sought to challenge a decision of the North Tipperary County Board approving a four-week suspension starting on August 14th arising out of an incident which occurred in a game on that date and for which he had been red carded.

Mr Michael McGrath SC, for Boland, submitted that the GAA had acted in excess of its powers and was in breach of natural justice. He said Boland had been sent off for rough play in a match between Toomevara and Kilruane MacDonaghs in Nenagh on August 14th.

There had been a minor incident of jostling behind the referee's back but it had been reported to him by one of the umpires. He was one of four players sent off.

Judge Finlay-Geoghegan said she was satisfied there was a fair issue to be tried at the full hearing of the proceedings. She said it was fair to say that Ms Deirdre Murphy SC, for the GAA, had not seriously challenged the potential gravity for Boland missing the opportunity of playing in an all-Ireland final. Ms Murphy had urged the court to take into account the fact she had no evidence that if given the opportunity to do so he would actually be chosen to play.

"In my view the loss of opportunity of even being selected to play is potentially an irreparable loss which would not be compensatable in damages should he be successful at the full trial," Judge Finlay-Geoghegan said.

The judge said it had been argued that the court should not seek to interfere in a decision made by a referee but the court did not consider that to be the case. She did not understand Boland to be making any case which sought to challenge any decision made by the referee.

The case Boland had made was that he was a member of the GAA and as such was entitled to have the rules of that association applied to him in accordance with their expressed terms. His secondary argument was that he was entitled to have those rules applied in accordance with the constitutional guarantee of fair procedures.

Judge Finlay-Geoghegan said one of the fair issues to be tried was whether or not the offence as reported by the referee in his match report was an ordering off offence within the meaning of Rule 138.

Other issues included whether the North Tipperary divisional board had the competence to reopen and reverse its earlier decision that the suspension would not be applied and whether the association's Central Committee could direct the board to impose a suspension in a particular disciplinary set of proceedings.

In an affidavit, Boland said he was astonished at what had happened in the match on August 14th last. He had been informed the referee intended to issue yellow cards only and that red cards had been issued by mistake. He believed the referee, P. J. Cleary, was about to correct the error when he was pushed from behind by an official from the Toomevara club and this had led to the referee abandoning the match.

He said the North Tipperary County Board on August 26th had decided that the players sent off would not serve any suspension while the official who had interfered with the referee had been suspended for 48 weeks.

Boland said he believed the incident was at an end but on August 27th a board member had received a press release issued by GAA President Sean McCague on August 21st ruling that in future cases the Association must revert to a previous 1993 Central Council decision whereby a sending off automatically merited a minimum of four weeks' suspension irrespective of the content of the referee's report.

He said the 1993 decision had subsequently been amended to provide for consideration of the content of the referee's report.

Boland said that after meetings of the Management Committee of the Central Council, the North Tipperary County Board reversed its earlier decision not to impose a four-week suspension. As a result, he would miss tomorrow's match.