Diarmuid Connolly cleared to play semi-final against Mayo

Decision made by GAA’s Disputes Resolution Authority in early hours of Saturday morning

Dublin footballer Diarmuid Connolly has been cleared to play in this evening's All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo at Croke Park. The shock decision emerged in the early hours of this morning after a hearing before the GAA's independent arbitration tribunal, the Disputes Resolution Authority.

All three levels of the GAA's disciplinary process had found that Connolly should serve a one-match suspension as a result of the red card shown to him by referee Joe McQuillan in last weekend's drawn encounter for hitting Mayo's Lee Keegan.

The outcome will have come as a major boost for manager Jim Gavin, as the player, a current All Star has been the county's best forward this season. Dublin will also feel vindicated in their decision to pursue this matter every step of the way.

No details of the determination have been released – it will be published in due course on the DRA website – but the suspension imposed by last Wednesday's Central Hearings Committee has been quashed and Connolly is free to play in the semi-final.

The news will come as a devastating blow to the GAA's disciplinary system, which has already been under scrutiny after another player – coincidentally from Mayo, Kevin Keane – was not suspended also after being red-carded for striking an opponent, Donegal's Michael Murphy when his case went to the CHC.

A year ago another Mayo player, by further coincidence Lee Keegan who was involved in the incident which saw Connolly sent off, wasn’t suspended after being sent off in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry. As has been widely pointed out, this is the second time that Connolly has escaped without suspension for being dismissed in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Four years ago he was cleared to play in the final despite having been red carded for striking Donegal's Marty Boyle.

The inability of the GAA’s extensively re-modelled disciplinary system to make the obvious suspensions stick now raises questions as to whether the structures, which over the past nine years have largely worked satisfactorily, are still fit for purpose.

It was 10 years ago that the DRA was established to provide a forum for reviewing matters that might previously have ended up in the courts. In that is has been undeniably successful, as only one GAA decision since 2005 has been successfully challenged in the courts and that was overturned on appeal.

Until the determination is published, it has to be assumed that the decision early this morning is the same as would have been reached had Connolly gone to the High Court seeking an injunction. Yet the chairs of both committees that approved the suspension, Liam Keane of the CHC and Matt Shaw of the Central Appeals Committee are practising lawyers and are also both former secretaries of the DRA.

There isn’t much the GAA can do about this in the short term but further rule changes may become inevitable. In the meantime the disciplinary apparatus looks as if it will be well worked in the months to come, as recent events are likely to encourage anyone punished for breaches of rule to try their luck rather than accept the consequences of their misbehaviour.

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