In an unfortunate piece of timing, the GAA’s disciplinary apparatus will have to consider a red card from the weekend that would be directly affected by a rule change, proposed for the upcoming annual congress.
Clare footballer Jamie Malone was sent off in the 46th minute of Sunday's drawn Division Two encounter for an alleged push that caused Tipperary selector Shane Stapleton to fall backwards on the sideline and bang his head against concrete surrounds in Cusack Park, Ennis.
The injury required an overnight stay in hospital where he was still being detained for observation on Monday, although he has recovered well and all tests conducted have been clear.
It's not yet confirmed what rule referee Jerome Henry applied in issuing the red card, pending the submission of his match report, but the assumption is that it would be under the Category IV infraction, rule 5.28 – to assault an opposing team official.
That carries a two-match suspension but when Tipperary hurler Jason Forde was charged with this infraction for an incident with Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald in last year's Hurling League semi-final and the player applied for a hearing, the charge was amended to 'contributing to a melee'.
This effectively allowed the CHC to hand down a one-match rather than a two-match suspension, which was felt to be more appropriate and which also reflected uncertainty that a charge of ‘assault’ against Forde would be sustainable.
The GAA have moved to address this difficulty by bringing forward a motion from the association’s Rules Advisory Committee, adding to Rule 7.2 Category III a milder form of the assault infraction, which would merit a one-match suspension: “(vii) minor physical interference (e.g. laying a hand on, pushing, pulling or jostling) with an opposing team official either on or off the field of play”.
It is likely that Malone’s sending off would come under this heading even allowing for the drastic outcome, which saw Stapleton concussed from colliding with the concrete.
Eyewitness accounts all discount any malice on the player’s part although there is disagreement between the counties in that Tipperary believe – and say that video footage indicates – that Malone pushed Stapleton impatiently to get a ball that had gone out of play whereas it had been suggested in the player’s defence that he accidently collided with the Tipp selector, as his momentum carried him over the line.
The referee took the decision to red-card Malone after consultation with linesman Pádraig O'Sullivan, who saw the whole incident. In the aftermath of the sending-off, Clare forward David Tubridy was shown a black card for his heated reaction to the decision.
Stapleton initially appeared to have suffered no ill-effects but collapsed on the sideline and was treated there and in the first-aid room in Cusack Park before an ambulance was called.
Tipperary manager Liam Kearns later expressed 'disappointment' at the amount of time it took for the emergency service to arrive to take his selector to hospital.