It was a funny old night, as well as a long one, at the Central Hearings Committee last night. It was also a fruitful one if you were appealing anything, with Tyrone succeeding on the double as they had Conor Meyler’s black card from the Monaghan game nullified and, of course, Tiernan McCann’s kangaroo court eight-week ban was also overturned. Our own Kevin Keane also got off the hook for Sunday week, with his red card from the Donegal game downgraded to yellow band so making him available for selection for the All-Ireland semi-final.
Taking that one first, you’d have to say – a bit like the Lee Keegan case last year – that while Kevin is lucky to get off, it’s just the latest in a long line of GAA disciplinary decisions made by applying the spirit rather than the letter of the law. According to the latter – which ref David Gough applied – there was a striking action by Kevin (a mild slap, albeit) and that, according to the rules, was a straight red. The CHC, however, appear to have taken a wider view of what happened, perhaps by factoring in the obvious aggression on Murphy’s part in starting the incident (a player, incidentally, who shouldn’t have been on the field at that stage having committed an obvious black card offence earlier on and who wasn’t punished at all for his part in the episode with Kevin) and also maybe bearing in mind that the punishment Kevin would suffer – missing out on a possible All-Ireland semi-final appearance – far outweighed the offence. In this respect, others have already pointed to the obvious parallels with the Diarmuid Connolly case back in 2011.
Whatever the rationale, Kevin can count himself as very fortunate to have been cleared. The incident should, as has already been pointed out, also act as a warning to the whole squad about the need to maintain discipline, especially in the light of provocation. The Lee Keegan episode last year – in which the Westport man was fouled by both Walsh and Buckley, with the latter punching him in the bread-basket for good measure before Lee retaliated (GIF here) – ultimately proved hugely costly to us, turning a very winnable game into a real dogfight and leaving the lads who gave everything that day in less than optimum condition for the replay six days later. Control the controllables, as the saying goes.
Our man getting off wasn’t, of course, the big news item from the CHC last night. In the early hours of the morning, they decided that the eight-week ban meted out to Tyrone’s Tiernan McCann also couldn’t stand. This was obviously the right decision and the question has to be posed as to how on earth the CCC thought they’d get away with this kind of make-it-up-as-you-go-along justice. What McCann did was clearly a disgrace – and he’s been made an all-island laughing stock as a result of it – but he wasn’t the only player in that game to show a talent for theatrics. What about Monaghan’s Rory Beggan with his dash and dive cameo earlier on?
What appears to have happened was that the CCC took their line directly from Colm O’Rourke on The Sunday Game who said something to the effect that surely it should be possible to do a player for discrediting the organisation in light of the dive. Which was exactly what the CCC then attempted to do.
Not only was the proposed ban a move that couldn’t stand – as Joe Brolly quickly, and correctly, pointed out – it was also highly selective. Was what McCann did any worse than serial diver James O’Donoghue’s latest offering, which, unlike McCann’s, completely altered the course of the match in question? And how come O’Donoghue – as well as the likes of Keane and Donaghy – can dive with abandon while it’s only the Tyrone lads who get called out for it? I’m no fan of the Red Hands and their nasty, underhand and utterly cynical approach to how they play the game (at all levels) but to go after them as the only ones up to this sort of carry-on is ridiculous and, as last night’s appeal showed, completely untenable.