Galway captain Seán Kelly expected to contest proposed suspension for ‘contributing to a melee’

Defender along with two Armagh players facing bans after red cards on Sunday

It is believed that the GAA has recommended a one-match suspension for Galway captain Seán Kelly, arising out of Sunday’s disorder at the All-Ireland football quarter-final victory against Armagh. Imposed, this would rule him out of Saturday week’s All-Ireland semi-final against Derry.

Although, there has been no confirmation from the county, it is expected that the matter will be contested and brought to a hearing. Kelly was red-carded by referee David Coldrick for “contributing to a melee” but video of his involvement shows the player joining the fracas, certainly, but largely trying to restrain it.

Galway’s Kelly and Armagh joint-captain Aidan Nugent were red-carded before the commencement of extra time. Nugent is also thought to have been recommended a one-match suspension.

There was some confusion about what was happening before extra time commenced but team officials can be seen amending the team lists to reflect the red cards before handing them in to the referee. Both teams were able to restore their line-ups to a full complement of 15 before play resumed.

The Galway captain is then asked to leave the field before the coin toss. He shakes hands with Nugent and departs.

There had also been no word late last night from either Armagh or Galway about the findings of the Central Competitions Control Committee investigation into the incidents, which took place at the end of normal time.

That would include any proposed penalty for Tiernan Kelly, a member of Armagh’s extended panel, who was at the centre of eye gouging claims in the midst of the melee.

His club Clann Éireann issued a statement of support earlier in the week.

“The vilification of Tiernan on social media over the last few days has been both unjust and unfair. Tiernan has been, and always will be, a great ambassador for our club.

“The GAA will have its due process regarding the issue. We would ask people to let this process take place before making judgment.”

The CCCC were in session most of the week with the recommended one-match suspensions arising from the referee’s report. Both were sent off for the Category III infraction of contributing to a melee.

The minimum suspension under Rule 7.2 is one match.

Armagh’s Greg McCabe is believed to have had a two-match ban proposed for another Category III infraction, dangerous behaviour after being sent off for a high, frontal charge on Matthew Tierney but in his case, it is a repeat infraction.

He also served a one-match suspension for contributing a melee in February during the league match against Tyrone.

Both counties have the option of seeking a hearing on the matter.

The length of time taken by the process reflects the difficulties experienced recently by the CCCC in making its recommendations on disciplinary matters stick.

It has become common practice for legal advisers to identify potential loopholes and argue for charges to be dismissed on technicalities. The GAA do not retain lawyers for disciplinary matters unless cases reach the Disputes Resolution Authority, the association’s independent arbitration tribunal, which is not widely used these days for playing-related suspensions.

As a result the CCCC meets online a number of times to thrash out decisions on identifying infractions, proposing and agreeing action. Apart from the Croke Park servicing officials, the other members of all disciplinary committees are amateur, most with work commitments.

In this case it is expected that there may also be proposed fines for the counties. At last year’s Connacht final, played at Croke Park, another ‘tunnel incident,’ involving Galway and Mayo players attracted fines of €1,500 and €1,000 — the small amounts reflecting Covid finances at the time.

In one of the last matches pre-pandemic, a league encounter between Tyrone and Dublin, a similar incident triggered fines of €5,000 each.

The GAA has however come to question the efficacy of imposing fines to punish counties collectively for breach of rules, as those sanctions appear to carry little deterrent.

The idea of docking league points from counties is another possibility and one which would carry real weight given the importance of league standings for the championship from next year when the round-robin format of both the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cup will be determined by league position.

In more recent years the punishment of forfeiting home advantage has been used to punish counties for brawls and other incidents of mass disorder and the CCCC are believed to have given particular consideration to looking more carefully at the concept as a more appropriate punishment and one which would have greater deterrent.

From next season, the All-Ireland stages of the championship will be played on a round-robin basis and losing home advantage in a fixture would be definite setback to a county.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times