Dublin expelled from under 21 championship


THE Leinster Council has handed out verdicts of unprecedented severity on the Dublin and Offaly under 21 teams caught up in the brawl at Parnell Park on Saturday, March 15th.

Dublin have been removed from this year's under 21 championship the first team ever to be expelled from an inter county championship on a disciplinary matter.

One of their players, Damien Bolger, has been suspended for two years and their manager, Dave Billings, has been suspended for one year. Both Dublin and Offaly have been removed from the 1998 under 21 championship.

Three Dublin substitutes, Anthony O'Gorman, Shane Heraty and Brendan Shovlin, have received six month bans while Paul Croft the only Dublin player sent off by referee Frank Toher - has received three months for striking.

Two Offaly players, John Mason and Trevor Willis, who were sent off after the brawl, also received three months for striking. Three Offaly substitutes, Ivan Dunne, Stephen Byrne and Adrian Mahon, received two months while the third Offaly player sent off, John Greene, got a two week ban for two personal fouls.

Bolger received his suspension under Rule 139 bringing the game into disrepute - but Leinster Council secretary Michael Delaney said Bolger received the GAA's maximum ban for allegedly kicking the Offaly goalkeeper, Declan Kelly, on the ground.

Delaney conceded that in banning both counties from" the 1998 championship, under age players not connected to either team would suffer next year. "Unfortunately they are punished for the sins of their elders and they have to pay the price for five or six minutes of madness in Parnell Park."

The three players sent off for their parts in the brawl, received their suspensions for striking. The rest received theirs for bringing the game into disrepute. In the case of Billings, said Delaney, "the committee obviously felt his incursion onto the pitch played a major part in the fracas."

The Dublin players and officials were shell shocked by the outcome, immediately leaving council headquarters in Portlaoise without comment shortly before midnight. They have the option to appeal the decisions but did not reveal their intentions in this regard.

The Council's executive committee clearly decided that Dublin were the more culpable party and have been punished more severely than Offaly. Asked if last night's judgments would deter players in the future, Delaney replied: "I think we put down a fair marker tonight and if that doesn't discourage them, I don't know what will."

Both contingents were interviewed en bloc with Offaly first to face the Council's executive committee shortly after 8.30 p.m. They emerged about an hour later with Dublin immediately following them in.

A total of 12 personnel from Offaly were summoned to appear, including five players, three substitutes, the team manager, Eamon Mahon, and four officials. Two of the players, John Greene and John Ryan, were called to appear as witnesses. One player from the Dublin contingent, Ray Cosgrove, was also called as a witness. The six Dublin footballers were accompanied by Billings and three county board officials.

The meeting was chaired by Leinster Council chairman, Jim Berry. Council secretary, Michael Delaney, vice chairman, Seamus Aldridge and treasurer, Paddy Mulligan, were present along with six county representatives, including Dublin's, Jim Roche.

The committee had studied video evidence earlier yesterday evening before formally interviewing both sides. Two videos of the game were made, one by Dublin which had no record of the incident, and one that was made by a sister of the Offaly midfielder, Ciaran McManus. It did not have comprehensive footage of the fracas but was considered alongside the evidence of both sides and the report of the referee.

Leinster, Council also had other disciplinary matters in the under 21 grade to attend to last night. Car low player, Tom Doyle received a six month ban for head butting an opponent from Laois in a previous round of the championship, while Jeremy Kavanagh, of Laois, received a one month suspension for being sent off against Meath in the same competition.