Galway trio out for 48 weeks in Croker crackdown

THREE club players in Galway accused of assaulting a referee will have to serve bans of almost a year after GAA bosses in Croke Park threw out a 12-week suspension imposed locally.

The three players from the Mullagh club in Galway had initially been hit with a 48-week ban following an incident when referee Christy Helebert was assaulted at the end of a county hurling semi-final in October.

Disgraceful scenes erupted at the end of the game, which Loughrea won with a controversial late free.

The Galway Competitions Control Committee proposed bans of 48 weeks on the three players – recently recalled Galway senior squad member Conor Dervan, wing-back John Rafferty and Davey Glennon, an All-Ireland minor winner in September – but the players, who vehemently denied assaulting the official, requested personal hearings.

The Co Galway Hearings Committee then examined the case and decided to reduce the charge to a category four offence – abusive behaviour – which carries a 12-week suspension which was imposed on the players.

The controversy led to the postponement for a week of the Galway senior hurling final as referees in the county came out in support of their colleague Helebert, eventually agreeing to officiate at matches “under protest” for the remainder of the year.

Match official Helebert, a former Galway defender and regarded as one of top emerging referees, was incensed at the way the matter was handled in Galway and sent a file on the affair to the National Referees Administration, which included a medical report outlining the injuries he says he received.

The Central Competitions Control Committee in Croke Park examined the case and have now instructed that the players each serve 48-week suspensions. The players were informed of the bans yesterday but a Mullagh spokesperson said the club will not be commenting on the bans until the process has taken its course. Mullagh officials met officers of Galway County Board in Pearse Stadium this week but Galway chairman Gerry Larkin ruled out any further action by his board.

“It is a matter for the players and the club to decide what action to take, but it would be difficult for another Galway committee to hear any appeal,” said Larkin.

Meanwhile Ger Mahon’s hopes of playing his way back into the Galway squad have been dealt a severe blow following confirmation that he will be suspended for all three pool games in the Fitzgibbon Cup.

The 23-year old, dropped by John McIntyre when Galway’s new squad was announced in November, was unsuccessful on Monday night in appealing a four-week suspension.

The Kinvara defender, who made his senior debut for Galway in 2005, was sent off playing for GMIT in the Walsh Cup against Laois and given a one-match and four-week suspension. GMIT officials presumed the ban would apply to the Walsh Cup only and that Mahon would be available for their Fitzgibbon Cup campaign which starts tomorrow away to Waterford IT.

Meanwhile Mayo duo David Heaney and James Nallen have retired from inter-county action.

Nallen ends a career that began 15 years ago in an NFL match against Galway. The two-time All Star from Crossmolina played for Mayo on 132 occasions, and played in five All-Ireland senior finals (including replays).

He made his last appearance for Mayo after coming on as a substitute against New York at Gaelic Park last May. 32-year-old Heaney played 108 times for the county, making his debut in 1997 in the National Football League and lined out in three All-Ireland finals. Ironically both could be set to play their club football with Claregalway subject to transfer approval.

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