So Diarmuid Connolly caused only the second ever dissenting decision in the 10-year history of the Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA) when getting his suspension rescinded from Dublin's drawn All-Ireland football semi-final against Mayo.
The complete 43-page DRA decision, publishing on its website yesterday afternoon, hinged on "lack of fair procedure" afforded to Connolly as he contested his suspension for striking Mayo's Lee Keegan late in the drawn game of August 30th; after failing to contest that decision with both the GAAs Central Hearings Committee (CHC) and Central Appeals Committee (CAC), Connolly took his case to the DRA, who cleared him to play early in the morning of the replay, September 5th.
However, the tribunal – chaired by former Supreme Court judge Hugh O'Flaherty, along with solicitors David Nohilly and Brian Rennick – only ruled in his favour 2-1: Rennick made the dissenting decision, the reasons for which were also outlined.
It also emerged that Connolly claimed he was “choked” by Keegan immediately prior to his own striking action, effectively claiming self-defence: yet according to O’Flaherty and Nohilly while that wasn’t the reason he was cleared, it didn’t go unnoticed. “We do not agree with the proposition that a player is not entitled to defend oneself. The Claimant gave evidence to this Tribunal of being ‘choked’ etc., at the time of the altercation. Whilst that may or may not have been case is not for us to decide, but to say no such defence exists absolutely is not correct in our opinion.”
That certainly sets an interesting precedent. However, Connolly was ultimately cleared on six issues of “breach of fair procedures” where were “a significant impairment of the rights of the claimant, which was disproportionate, irrational and unfair”.
These included that “the claimant was not given details of the entire evidence against him; not given an opportunity to test that evidence, particularly, the evidence based on hearsay; not afforded any right to scrutinise and question the entire evidence against him; not afforded the opportunity to present evidence in support of his position”. However there was no light shed on why the case wasn’t sent back to the CHC, as it might well have been.
Indeed this was part of Rennick’s dissenting decision: “I strenuously disagree . . with the majority decision which finds that there was ‘a significant impairment of the rights of the claimant, which was disproportionate, irrational and unfair’.”
For the full DRA hearing see: http://www.sportsdra.ie/dradecisions.htm