Ciarán Murphy: De Búrca and Déise kept waiting too long

The game, both teams and the player deserve quicker result from slow disciplinary process

Referee Fergal Horgan sends off Waterford’s Tadhg de Búrca during the All-Ireland quarter-final against Wexford. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Referee Fergal Horgan sends off Waterford’s Tadhg de Búrca during the All-Ireland quarter-final against Wexford. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The Disputes Resolution Authority might well be described as an august body, and it’s fitting, because this is usually the month when it must dust itself down and ready itself for action.

It is more often than not only at this time of year that teams feel compelled to exhaust every avenue in their pursuit of a reprieve. As today’s DRA hearing for Tadhg de Búrca looms, Waterford feel they have a compelling case to get one of their most influential players off and allow him to take his place on Sunday in their All-Ireland semi-final against Cork.

Writing in these pages in June, in the aftermath of the Diarmuid Connolly incident against Carlow, Seán Moran gave us some perspective on how well the GAA’s disciplinary procedures have been working.

“Over the past three years (to June 2017)… the CCCC has proposed 467 penalties. More than three-quarters of these were actually accepted without further process. Of the 111 that opted to go to the Central Hearings Committee, 25 succeeded. Of the remaining 86, 15 took their case to the Central Appeals Committee and just two won their appeal.

Of the 13 who failed at CAC, two went to the Disputes Resolution Authority and one was successful.”

As Seán noted later in that piece, the system works, but what is malfunctioning is the GAA’s method of communicating that fact.

The key problem in the eyes of the public is the sheer length of time it has taken for these incidents to run their course . . .into which vacuum pours all manner of innuendo and conjecture, none of which is particularly helpful to seeing the correct judgement reached.

Relitigating the exact rights and wrongs of De Búrca’s pull on the face-guard of Harry Kehoe is probably a little beside the point by now, two weeks and four days after the fact, but it’s a constant source of frustration that these stories are allowed to stumble on, week after week.

If Waterford were playing their semi-final last weekend instead of this weekend, would the GAA have found a way to make sure justice was made available for De Búrca in one week and four days, or less? Of course they would have. I get the impression that if the same incident had happened in the Munster final, we might still be in the same situation, waiting until three days before the game before a final reckoning was made.

Huge risk

The problems posed by allowing these stories to go on interminably are manifold. It has dominated the run-up, to the extent that almost all the pre-match comment and build-up revolves not around what should be a hugely anticipated game, but a suspension.

For Waterford, it is a huge risk to hedge their bets on De Búrca’s availability by planning for both eventualities after today’s ruling, which is presumably what they are doing. He is, in that respect of course, no ordinary player.

As well as being near enough their most consistent performer over the last three years, he is absolutely central to how they set up tactically. If Waterford play a sweeper, as most people presume they will, De Búrca will be that man – indeed, if you were to pick one player currently playing the game to perform that very specific task, it would be De Búrca. He is exceptional at it.

Darragh Fives is the obvious choice to replace him if the appeal fails, but don’t tell me it’s not disruptive to the panel in general, and to Fives in particular, if he’s spent the last few weeks preparing for a role he may not have to fulfil.

For De Búrca himself, it is also far from ideal. When you take into account all of the marginal gains that players seek in the run-up to games as huge as the one on Sunday, this cannot be discounted as a mere distraction. He will try his best to behave as normal, to convince himself that he will be available, but even if he is allowed play, at the back of his mind will be the enhanced scrutiny he will find himself under.

Cork should know whether he’s available or not too, of course, although perhaps that is one part of this tale that Derek McGrath isn’t too upset about.

It is better for everyone if these things are handled more speedily than they are currently. The difficulties with that are already in the public domain – many of these committees are made up of volunteers, and getting a meeting convened at short notice can be difficult.

But setting a standard whereby every incident is adjudicated upon, appealed where necessary, and a final decision made by midnight on the following Thursday is surely not impossible to enforce. The game, the teams, and the player deserve better.

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