Brian Fenton disappointed to be sent off for first time in his career for club or county

The Dublin midfielder was red-carded in the league final against Derry

Brian Fenton enters the bedroom of a Dublin city centre aparthotel – it is not an opening paragraph you ever imagined writing. But here we are.

Fenton is on hand to promote Staycity’s Dublin GAA sponsorship. But if the surroundings of the interview are peculiar it is in keeping with the unfamiliar situation he found himself in last Sunday for Dublin’s Leinster SFC opener.

Fenton was suspended for the Croke Park encounter against Meath following a straight red card picked up in the closing moments of the league final when he reacted to a heavy tackle by Eunan Mulholland by shoving the Derry player to the ground.

It was the first time the 31-year-old Raheny man had been sent off in his career – for club or county. He took his case to the Central Hearings Committee, challenging the ruling he was guilty of “behaving in any way which is dangerous to an opponent”. However, the council upheld the decision and he received a one-match ban.


“I was proud to be a player that had never been sent off, in many ways,” says Fenton. “I have got a couple of yellows before, but I could probably count them on one hand. It has just never been part of my game. Okay there will be an asterisk against the name but I don’t think I will be too ashamed of it down the line, it’s not the worst thing that has been done on a Gaelic pitch, but it’s a big learning.”

Fenton says his actions were a reaction to both the circumstances of the game at the time – Dublin trailed by three points – and also the manner of Mulholland’s tackle.

“You could see the closed fist coming in, it’s not something I would ever leave in there, and it’s not something I like in the game to be totally honest with you. So, definitely it peed me off a little bit.

“And it’s something I would be of the opinion that goes missed a lot of the times by referees. You can get away with it, if you know what I mean. And it can be a very hurtful, dangerous, kind of nasty little thing to do.

“It was also more so that we were three points down, so it was kind of like the game was gone from us a little bit. So, yeah, it was born out of frustration really. There were loads of factors to it, I think there was definitely a bit of playacting in many ways but it was my own fault even to get involved in it really. There are big learnings in it in that way.”

Fenton chose not to attend Sunday’s game, instead spending the afternoon watching the match on television – in itself an unusual experience for a player who has been more or less ever-present for the last decade.

“I think the big thing for me watching it at home last Sunday is how precious it is. I’m one of those players lucky enough to take to the park and be part of that, just how special it is. In my tenth season you could fall into the trap of being very used to this, that this is normal life, but if anything the silver lining on the suspension is that it gives you a real appreciation of what we do and how lucky we are to be a part of it.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times