Queen’s appeal to DRA over ban on Ciarán O’Hanlon

Sigerson Cup furore over Armagh player being ruled ineligible to line out for college

Queen's GAA development officer Aidan O'Rourke has said the suspension of one of his players from Thursday's defeat by the University of Limerick "calls into question the credibility of the Higher Education Committee in Croke Park".

Despite losing the Sigerson Cup quarter-final in Limerick, O'Rourke said Queen's will proceed with a DRA hearing on Saturday. The issue concerns Armagh footballer Ciarán O'Hanlon, who missed the defeat by UL because of suspension.

The match ban was effectively handed down because O’Hanlon didn’t attend the hearing last Saturday week (he was playing with Armagh in the league) even though the grounds for disputing his eligibility were rejected in the case of two other players.

O'Hanlon is one of three players, who are students of Stranmillis University College, the teacher training institute within Queen's, which has a club of its own since 2012, whose eligibility was queried on the basis that they were not Queen's students.

They were suspended by the GAA’s Higher Education Authority, as was team manager James McCartan and the college was expelled from the competition.

“When this came up two weeks ago we argued the point at every turn,” said O’Rourke, “and the hearings committee completely exonerated us and cleared us.” The college was reinstated in the Sigerson.

The CHC was however unhappy with the non-attendance of some of those suspended, including O’Hanlon and McCartan and imposed 12-week suspensions. On appeal the Central Appeals Committee decided that the CHC did not misapply the rule on non-attendance.

Queen’s then tried to secure arbitration before the Disputes Resolution Authority but it was not possible to organise a tribunal before Saturday. Further application for temporary relief – to allow O’Hanlon to play and McCartan take his place on the sideline – was also refused.

Gerry Tully, chair of the Higher Education Authority, was asked why the matter had been brought against Queen’s again despite two previous instances of the college’s right to field Stranmillis students having been upheld.

“We changed the rules on this at our agm in April last year,” he said. “We’re of the view that if you’re attending a college which has a team, you should play with that team. We don’t want the scenario of two fellas in the one class playing for two different colleges. Queen’s challenged our decision and it was found once again in their favour.

“Obviously we’ll have to look at this again. Our view still is that you should play with the college you’re representing.”

O’Rourke said Queen’s are not looking for a rematch. “We’re only seeking vindication of our position and are not trying to drag UL into this. They won fair and square . . .”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times