‘Distraught’ Alan Bennett set to face three-game ban for Cork City

Cork City’s Alan Bennett could be hit with a three-match ban — or worse — after being sent off in Monday’s EA Sports Cup semi-final defeat to Shamrock Rovers.

The red card already rules the centre-half out of Saturday’s FAI Cup first round game away to Bray Wanderers and, if, as expected, the referee’s report from Tallaght cites “violent conduct” as the reason for Bennett’s dismissal, he would face the further sanction of, at minimum, an additional two-game ban with no leave to appeal.

Such an outcome would see Bennett suspended for Saturday’s cup tie as well as the upcoming league games at home to Sligo Rovers and away to Finn Harps.

City manager John Caulfield has already strongly protested his player’s innocence in an alleged stamping incident but, pending a decision on the matter by the FAI’s Disciplinary Committee next week, the club would still only be permitted to mount an appeal should the punishment be extended to more than the three games.

The City skipper’s red card, late in the first-half, was a turning point on a dramatic night in Tallaght which saw substitute James Doona put the Hoops through to the final against Dundalk with a goal in the dying minutes of extra-time.

According to John Caulfield, referee Neil Doyle said he sent Bennett off for “a clear stamp” on Dave Webster, but the City manager strongly contests that claim.

“An innocent man was sent off,” said Caulfield. “Alan Bennett is distraught about it because his record is impeccable. He would never do a thing like that. We’ve got the video — absolutely not. Dave Webster is clever, he fell on the ground and they all went around him. It’s disappointing. Hopefully Dave will stand up and be counted. Alan Bennett has a superb record, there is absolutely no way (he would do that).

“The referee says he saw it. Looking at the video, it looks like he couldn’t see it from his position. Certainly, we don’t like an innocent guy being done but we’ll wait and see the reports and we’ll have a look at it. But Alan isn’t very happy about it. It changed the game and as a spectacle it ruined it because, in the first 30 minutes, both teams were having a go off each other.”

Caulfield has also taken issue with being sent to the stands himself near the end of normal time, after a complaint from the fourth official to the referee apparently related to the City boss leaving his technical area after an earlier warning.

“We’ve got a free kick, I was asking the boys to get in the box and he asked the referee over to send me off,” said Caulfield. “It’s disappointing. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong and you put your hand up and you take it and, I always say, we don’t have many guys sent off. In this game, there were a few things that certainly weren’t correct. Things are being said that aren’t correct. If people are innocent, you’ve to fight for yourself.”

The FAI’s Disciplinary Committee will also adjudicate on Caulfield’s expulsion next week but, since a manager’s dismissal does not carry the automatic one-game ban to which players are subjected, it will be business as usual for the City boss at the Carlisle Grounds on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley described his side’s victory over Cork and success in reaching the EA Sports Cup final against Dundalk as being of “massive” significance for a team which came into Monday’s game having suffered back-to-back league defeats.

“For us, it was a point to prove for our players,” he said. “I felt we’ve done well against Cork this year. The scorelines don’t say it but we haven’t been too far off when we’ve played them head to head. And I knew John would come full strength. He was messing in the papers saying he might rest players. I thought it was important for us to meet it head-on and basically try and win the game.”

Cork City’s game with Dundalk scheduled for Turner’s Cross on September 15 has been postponed due to Dundalk facing Shamrock Rovers in the EA Sports Cup final on Saturday, September 16. The final was last night confirmed for Tallaght Stadium at 3pm.

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