Derry consider Conway return as ban lifted

JAMES CONWAY will learn later this week if he will be part of the Derry senior football panel for the All-Ireland qualifiers, after his controversial eight-week suspension was lifted at an appeals meeting.

The Ballinderry man was handed the ban and dropped from the county squad pending an investigation into an off-the-ball incident during a club game in which county teammate James Kielt suffered a broken jaw.

The controversy overshadowed Derry’s preparations for Sunday’s Ulster semi-final loss to Tyrone.

However, as the referee had not witnessed the incident in the club game, and Ballinderry were subsequently unable to identify the player responsible, it was decided the ban had to be lifted.

The Derry senior team management were last night awaiting official conformation of the decision on Conway and, in that light, were unwilling to say whether or not the player would be welcomed back onto the panel.

One source in the senior football camp described the situation as “messy” and intimated that a decision on whether or not Conway would return would “depend on what grounds” the player’s ban was lifted.

Some of the sparks arising from the whole affair have alighted on Ballinderry as well. Two of the club’s officials were originally handed six-month suspensions for their failure to cooperate in supplying the name of the player involved.

The club was also banned from all adult league competitions for a six-month period. This has now been reduced to three months, but the kicker is that the reigning county champions have been banned from the 2009 county championship.

Meanwhile, following their exciting victory over Louth last time out, Laois have named the same side for Saturday’s Leinster SFC semi-final clash with Kildare in Tullamore.

After missing the concluding stages of the League because of injury, Eamon O’Hara returns to the Sligo team for Sunday’s Connacht SFC semi-final against Galway at Markievicz Park.

O’Hara is named at right half-forward and links up with Alan Costello and Sean Davey with Mark Breheny at full forward.

Sligo boss Kevin Walsh has named three newcomers on the team. Making their debuts are centre-back, Neill Ewing from the Drumcliffe/Rosses Point club, Eugene Mullin from Easkey at midfield and Coolera/Strandhill club man Alan Costelloe, who gets the number 11 jersey.

Former All Star Eamon O’Hara, who scored the winning goal against Galway in the 2007 Connacht final is named at right half-forward, despite playing most of his football at midfield.

O’Hara made his senior championship debut against Mayo in 1994 and he will be playing in the championship for the 44th time on Sunday.

Antrim footballer Niall McKeever has signed a professional contract with the Brisbane Lions and will fly to Australia to start his new life in the AFL this November.

After impressing at two trials arranged by agent Ricky Nixon, the 20-year-old was offered a contract by the Gold Coast club last month.

It’s understood that McKeever will earn a minimum of Aus$120,000 (€68,000) during these two years and this could rise if he is elevated to the senior list and starts to play games.

McKeever revealed that the recession influenced his decision.

As a quantity surveying student at the University of Ulster, he has already witnessed the adverse effects of the economic collapse. Only a few students on his course were able to get placements.

The Antrim midfielder said: “The downturn is drastic here at the minute. That was a big issue.”

Former Castlehaven star John Cleary has been re-appointed as manager of the Cork U21 footballers for another two years.

Cleary led Cork to All-Ireland success this season and he will again be joined by his successful backroom team.

LAOIS (SFC v Kildare): M Nolan; C Ryan, M Timmons, R Stapleton; D Rooney, G Reddin, J O’Loughlin; P Clancy, K Meaney; B Quigley, B McCormack, P O’Leary; M J Tierney, R Munnelly, D Kingston.

SLIGO (SFC v Galway): P Greene; C Harrison (capt), N McGuire, R Donovan; M McNamara, N Ewing, J Davey; T Taylor, E Mullen; E O’Hara, A Costello, S Davey; D, Kelly, M Breheny, A Marren.

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