GAA warns players to obey law of the land

The GAA has warned its players the law of the land applies everywhere — including on the field of play.

The warning follows a court case where a player got a two-month jail term for punching an opponent and fracturing his jaw.

A spokesman for GAA headquarters said the rule book sets out very specifically how disciplinary matters are dealt with, including a graded ban system for various types of attacks.

“It deals with the actions of individuals and not the severity of injuries received,” he said.

The association would not be running to amend its rule book after every court case involving pitch assaults, he said: “If a player is not happy with how a disciplinary matter is handled by the GAA, it’s his prerogative to pursue the matter through the courts.”

He was reacting to calls by Macroom GAA secretary Pat O’Connell last night for the GAA to do more to deter on-pitch violence following a Macroom District Court case on Wednesday.

Judge James McNulty sentenced Sean O’Sullivan, aged 35, of Riverview Estate, Tower, Blarney, to two months in jail after convicting him of assault causing harm to John Angland, aged 33, of New St, Macroom, during a Mid-Cork Junior A football championship match on May 11 2013.

Blarney player O’Sullivan admitted striking Mr Angland, who was playing for Macroom. He relied upon a defence of justifiable force for protection.

O’Sullivan claimed he had feared for his safety after Mr Angland had struck him earlier in the match with what he claimed was a deliberate elbow that cut his scalp.

However, the judge ruled that he did not believe that O’Sullivan could rely on this defence because he was on his way to the sideline to receive treatment from the Blarney team physio for the blood wound to his head, and was moving away from Mr Angland when he turned and punched him.

Mr Angland suffered two fractures to his jaw which required surgery and the insertion of two steel plates. He also suffered damage to two teeth.

O’Sullivan, who was sent off, later received a 12-week ban from the Mid-Cork board. The ban was reduced to eight weeks on appeal after the board learned that he had earlier suffered a head injury in the match.

Mr O’Connell said the jail sentence sends out a strong signal but he said the GAA must do more to deter violent on-pitch assaults.

“Nobody wants to see a fella going to jail but if this happened on the street, gardaí would have been called.

“I’ve seen players assaulted on the pitch before and nothing was done about it. Players just don’t report it afterwards. I’ve seen some fellas out of action for up to nine months afterwards and all the other fella gets is a suspension.”

Judge McNulty said sports organisations have a duty to prevent acts of “savage violence” on playing pitches. If they fail to do so, then the courts will deal firmly with such incidents, he added.

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