The can of worms is well and truly open.
Thanks to Longford’s Barry Gilleran, it has been revealed the entirety of the National League was completed under an incorrect disciplinary structure.
Match bans should not have applied to the competition according to the Central Appeals Committee (CAC) who ruled the Gilleran’s red card merited a four-week suspension not a one-match ban.
That decision was made by CAC chairman, Meath solicitor Liam Keane, the chairman of the Central Appeals Committee and former head of not only the Central Hearings Committee but the Disputes Resolution Authority as well.
Regardless of whether match bans were handed out in good faith, players were permitted to play in games when they should have been suspended.
Apart from the embarrassment of Lar Corbett and JJ Delaney now being free to play their counties’ provincial games against Limerick and Offaly next month, it brings into question the involvement of Dublin’s Paul Ryan in the Division 1B final against Limerick.
Through no fault of Dublin’s, the player’s or the Central Competitions Control Committee who assumed match bans were in place, the Ballyboden St Enda’s man was allowed to line out in Thurles.
That April 6 promotion decider fell within four weeks of his straight red card against Limerick on March 16. Under the time-based suspensions which were in place, he should have remained sidelined.
Limerick, who had nobody sent off in Division 1B on either a straight or double yellow red card, don’t appear to be looking to replace Dublin in Division 1A next season.
As they have stated to this newspaper, they are fully aware the opponents on April 6 were not aware that they had breached a rule.
Ryan scored 1-8 from placed balls, his goal a great effort from 20-metre free which rocketed the Limerick goal.
To say he had a part to play in Dublin’s return to Division 1A and in turn Limerick’s inertia would be an understatement.
As CCCC joint-secretary Pat Doherty admitted in these pages yesterday, Ryan’s isn’t the only case. There are a few more.
Tomás Ó Sé was issued with a straight red card against Donegal, missed the following game at home to Down but was back within the month window to face Cork when he shouldn’t have been allowed.
Donegal might have grounds for contesting that Kerry win over Cork in Tralee. They themselves had three players sent off in the league but all were on second yellow card infringements. Were it not for the fact Jim McGuinness has already dismissed the importance of being relegated, Donegal might try their luck.
Dublin’s Ger Brennan was dismissed against Mayo at the start of March and should have missed three games rather than the following week’s match with Kildare as the games fell inside the four weeks.
Brennan’s availability was wrong but pales in comparison to his fellow county man Ryan who was instrumental in Dublin’s promotion victory in Semple Stadium last month.
What was at stake was enormous. Both Dublin and Limerick have been vocal about the difficulties in playing lesser opposition in Division 1B and now the latter have another season of one-sided games in spring to dread.
There is no denying the fairness and appropriateness of the match ban. It is a much more balanced system than the time-based structure and was so successful last year that it should have been introduced a long time ago.
But the GAA, according to Keane, erred in deigning Central Council with the power to extend the trial basis of the match ban into this spring.
Last week we discussed the necessity in hurling abiding by the rulebook. If the GAA can’t do it themselves then there is an issue.
Limerick aren’t looking to create much a fuss but they have been wronged (albeit unknowingly) and most alarmingly not for the first time.
For Croke Park, the right thing to do would be to give serious consideration to their concerns about the structure of the league.
That might involve persuading a lot of football counties to overturn their votes on Central Council but it may just be the easier option.