O’Neill: I had no role in Armagh suspensions

GAA president Liam O’Neill has rejected Paul Grimley’s assertion that he, along with Director General Páraic Duffy and the media, influenced the decision to ban three Armagh players earlier this summer.

Brendan Donaghy, Kieran Toner and Andy Mallon received one-match suspensions for their part in the ‘Paradegate’ incident before their provincial championship opener against Cavan.

Two Cavan players received identical bans, but Grimley cried foul, claiming Cavan were the perpetrators and criticised what he claimed was undue influence brought to bear on the disciplinary body’s deliberations.

“We only have to look back at the hysterical reporting after the Cavan game, which was laughable,” he told the Newry Democrat earlier this month. “The media did, in my opinion, influence Liam O’Neill and Páraic Duffy and the Central Competitions Control Committee and put pressure on them and they reacted as they normally do.”

O’Neill did not comment on Grimley’s claims at the time, but the Laois official responded yesterday 24 hours after Armagh’s Kevin Dyas was instructed to refuse interviews at a GAA promotional event as part of the county’s ongoing media blackout.

“Páraic and I have no hand, act or part in discipline, the appointment of referees or match officiating of any sort,” said O’Neill. “I don’t mind putting on record that I have never spoken to the CCCC on any discipline matter since I became president. I have never spoken to the CRAC (Central Referees Appointment Committee) on the appointment of a referee, nor have I commented to anybody in officialdom on the performance of referees.”

O’Neill, speaking at the launch of this weekend’s Poc Fada competition, also expressed annoyance at what he believes is a code of ‘omerta’ among players who demonstrate a reluctance to give evidence on incidents of suspected foul play. His comments followed the latest ‘Bitegate’ incident during the Leinster football final when it was alleged that a Dublin player bit the finger of Meath substitute Mickey Burke.

The matter was subsequently dropped after initial deliberations by the CCCC due to insufficient evidence and it was understood that Burke was reluctant to pursue the matter after the game was over.

A similar story unfolded 15 months ago when Dublin’s Kevin O’Brien was alleged to have bitten Donegal’s Patrick McBrearty. That matter was also dropped when the latter failed to offer evidence.

“The interesting thing about it is that there seems to be an unwillingness among players to talk about incidents like this after games. There is a kind of solidarity. I would just wish that solidarity would manifest itself during the game as well. If there is such a tightness among players when these incidents happen, why doesn’t that extend to behaving on the field and not being involved in these incidents in the first place?”

O’Neill stressed the importance of following due process, but admitted it was always disappointing any time a player guilty of foul play on the field escaped punishment. Ultimately, he said, biting of lips may be in order.

“There is a rule in the German army. You have to wait 24 hours before you make a complaint. It gives you time to think out your position. Certainly, a longer time considering the thing, in all these cases, (would lead) to a more measured response.”


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