In a summer of lengthy bans across the GAA landscape this year, namely Davy Fitz (eight weeks), Kieran McGeeney (twelve weeks) and most recently, Diarmuid Connolly (twelve weeks), the overriding talking point of championship 2017 so far has been suspensions.
In addition, Matthew Fitzpatrick of the Antrim footballers was hit with a 48-week ban last month for “misleading an investigation” by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) but later had his suspension rescinded with thanks to legal assistance from Joe Brolly. Brolly, a barrister by profession was able to pin-point the injustice in Fitzpatrick’s lengthy ban via the appropriate appeals process.
Last night, on Newstalk’s Off The Ball, discussion was rife about the suspension epidemic in the GAA of late. There were strong points made by both sides on the debate over the merit of Connolly’s ban. Many listeners chipped in with their views on the situation.
One listener, Robert Cox, a junior B club footballer from Meath called into the show to share his own personal history of long suspensions.
Cox was once banned for 48-weeks for kicking a ball at a referee, despite the ball going nowhere near his intended target.
He phoned in to explain the full story:
“Roughly 2008, 2009 – I can’t remember the exact year – Junior B Championship in Meath, Blackhall Gaels against St Paul’s.
“Just frustrated at a decision. So outside of the left foot, curled the ball at the referee. Missed him by about 20 feet. He called me over for a chat.
“I can’t remember the ref’s name which is probably a good thing,” Cox said.
“I explained to him that he was a little overweight at the time, so shouldn’t be reffing.”
The club player continued to illustrate exactly what happened which led to his long spell on the sidelines:
“He was about 30 metres [away from me]. I was [trying to hit him with the ball].
“There was blatant intent, and I was confident in my own ability. But I miscued that one, unfortunately. Oh it was obvious, so he copped that.
“The little bit of abuse used at the end was probably the final nail in the coffin,” he concluded.
Cox went on to state that his club would not appeal the decision to have him suspended for his actions, rather they felt that he was wholly deserving of the 48-week punishment if not worse for bringing their names into disrepute. He did admit that years later he bumped in to the same referee, where the pair put the incident behind them amicably.
We wonder how long Cox’s ban would have been had he the accuracy to land his shot where he intended!