GAA Director General Páraic Duffy has insisted that the Association’s disciplinary structures do not need change despite a number of recent controversies.
Disciplinary issues have dominated the headlines emerging from the latter stages of the All-Ireland football championship.
Tyrone forward Tiernan McCann received an eight-week suspension after Darren Hughes tousled his hair during the Red Hands’ quarter-final win over Monaghan. The suspension was overturned in time for McCann to feature in the semi-final defeat by Kerry.
There were then a number of unsavoury incidents in the drawn semi-final meeting between Dublin and Mayo, none of which led to retrospective disciplinary action and fuelled accusations that the disciplinary process was inconsistent.
Diarmuid Connolly’s one-match ban for receiving a red card at the end of that game was upheld until it was heard by the Disputes Resolution Authority the night before the sides’ replay.
Connolly, having failed with appeals at each stage of the GAA’s disciplinary process, was controversially cleared to play by the DRA.
There was also the issue of Mayo defender Kevin Keane being cleared to play in the drawn game despite receiving a red card in the quarter-final win over Donegal for an apparent strike on Michael Murphy.
However, speaking yesterday at an event to mark the renewal of Danske Bank’s partnership with Ulster Schools’ GAA, Duffy defended the current structures.
“I think the structures are fine. I don’t think we need to change them. Sometimes you get decisions that may confound you, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the system.
“People who make decisions, be it on disciplinary committees, in the courts, wherever it may, they don’t always get them right. I think the system’s ok.
“It gives the player an opportunity to a hearing, an appeal and – while it doesn’t happen too often – to go to the DRA. It’s designed in a way that it’s fair to players.
“You may get decisions along the pathway that may surprise you. That doesn’t necessarily mean the system is wrong.”
Asked if the appeals process was weighted too heavily in favour of the player, Duffy said: “The number of disciplinary cases that goes to the DRA is very small. Any time it happens, like with Diarmuid Connolly recently, it attracts a huge amount of attention.
“The number of cases that go as far as the DRA is very small. In most cases, players accept the penalty.
“A small number go to hearings, an even smaller number go to appeals, and one every year perhaps goes to the DRA. But they attract attention.
“The vast majority of players accept the penalty that’s offered by CCC, and we sometimes forget that.”
As the inter-county season draws to a close, the issue of club fixtures is again rearing its head, with club championships being condensed into ever-shortening windows.
Monaghan native Duffy is set to release a paper in October that will attempt to deal with the issue of club fixtures and admits that it is something that must be dealt with ahead of next year’s Annual Congress.
“It’s not fair to club players, and that has to be a primary concern, how we can improve that.
“Having said that, we have to accept that this is difficult because the inter-county programme is hugely important in the GAA. It’s hugely important in promotional terms.
“Take the last eight weeks, with the provincial finals, All-Ireland quarter-finals, semi-finals, controversial games, big attendances – that’s all hugely important in terms of promoting the game.
“I will be putting forward some suggestions and it’s a matter then for the Association to say ‘we’re going to act on this’ or ‘we’re just going to keep talking about it’. We have to do something about it now, this year, in the next six months between now and Congress.”
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