Diarmuid Connolly risked missing All-Ireland final over appeal

Dublin forward would have faced suspension had late-night hearing followed precedent

Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly might this week have been facing suspension for the All-Ireland football final, had his late-night hearing at the weekend followed established precedent.

Connolly successfully challenged the one-match suspension imposed by the GAA for the red card he received in the drawn semi-final with Mayo, before the association's independent tribunal, the Disputes Resolution Authority.

In a verdict handed down in the early hours of Saturday morning, the tribunal (a committee appointed to hear the matter by the DRA) upheld the player’s claim on grounds of a “lack of fair procedure afforded to Mr Connolly at an early stage in the GAA’s internal disciplinary process which unfairly hindered the preparations for, and presentation of, his defence. Mr Connolly was thus free to play in the replay of the above match on 5 September.”

The tribunal did not take issue with Connolly’s red card but with the manner in which his suspension was decided.

Yet the arguments on lack of fair procedure – thought to relate to two technicalities concerning clarification of the referee's report – had not been presented at any earlier stage of the disciplinary process when Dublin and Connolly went to the Central Hearings Committee and the Central Appeals Committee.

Remedies

The DRA is an independent dispute resolution facility available when all remedies under the GAA’s rules have been exhausted and consequently new grounds for consideration aren’t usually introduced at the tribunal. The tribunal has yet to publish its full decision, which is expected within the next fortnight, and it will be interesting to see its view on this issue.

The practice on any such new arguments has been that if they are introduced at the tribunal and are considered to be sufficiently material to the case, they are simply sent back for re-consideration so that the relevant bodies, CHC and CAC, can re-hear the issue.

It is surprising that this did not happen. Obviously at 2.30am on Saturday morning there wouldn’t have been time for that before the Dublin-Mayo replay began at 5pm.

There was, however, the option of remitting the case for re-hearing in the light of the new technicalities argued before the DRA. Connolly would therefore rightly have been cleared to play, as his case wouldn’t have been heard in time but it would have been listed for processing this week.

Had the system come to the same conclusion as the DRA, the player would have been formally cleared, but had he failed – and this is more likely given that clarifications of the referee's report were the only issues – he would have been suspended, this time for the All-Ireland final against Kerry or potentially the first league match of 2016 had Mayo won on Saturday.

As regards the technicalities themselves, they are believed to relate to two matters of clarification in respect of the referee’s report: one sought by Dublin and the other not sought by the Central Hearings Committee.

Report

The former concerned a list of requests for clarifications of the referee’s report submitted by Dublin to the Central Competitions Control Committee and the manner in which the CCCC communicated this to referee Joe McQuillan.

The latter relates to a power of the CHC to seek clarification from the referee – his response then becomes part of the report – which in this case wasn’t exercised. It will be interesting to see how much weight was given to this, as the power exists under rule at the discretion of the CHC.

The tribunal was chaired by former Supreme Court judge Hugh O'Flaherty, who sat with solicitors David Nohilly and Brian Rennick. Tribunals include at least one person from each of two panels, made up of lawyers and administrators respectively.

Judge O’Flaherty was regarded as being the latter category, as he is now retired.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times

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