Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Joe Kernan: Congress can make sure justice is done

The Annual Congress of the GAA is due to be held in Mullingar next month. This is the most high-profile talking shop in the Association’s calendar and in recent years there has been a much greater focus on the various motions which come up for debate.

To my mind, this year’s Congress can do much to bring clarity to two issues which still continue to cause considerable consternation among players, officials and fans.

These are the contentious matter of players serving time bans as opposed to actual match suspensions, and the pressure that is currently being put on referees to assist in imposing retrospective disciplinary action on players whose infringements may not have been spotted during the course of play in a game.

For too long now, players have been handed down suspensions which in essence were meaningless.

A player could receive a four-week ban but because his team do not have a meaningful match in that period he gets off scot-free.

Not before time, the GAA is about to tackle this anomaly much more decisively. And it is worth noting that the motion for action on this matter at Congress will come from Central Council itself.

Under the terms of the motion, a Category 2 offence will result in a one-match ban while a Category 3 offence will merit a two-match suspension.

This means we will have match bans thus ensuring that the player and his team will be penalised because of his transgression.

Assuming the motion is passed at Congress, it will come into play on a trial basis for the 2012 Leagues and Championships which is a fair way of introducing the policy as the situation can then be monitored before anything is cast in stone.

I have long been in favour of players being forced to miss matches rather than serve an ‘artificial’ ban which in reality means they escape censure.

And while the issue of match bans will evoke lively debate, I believe that the motion which urges that the Central Competitions Control Committee should take full responsibility for retrospective disciplinary action will spark even more heated debate.

Former top-flight referee John Bannon is one of the driving forces behind the motion via his club Legan Sarsfields in Longford.

Bannon, who handled many major games at Croke Park before retiring, is convinced that the referees are being put in an invidious position when they are ‘invited’ to review match videos with a view to taking retrospective disciplinary action in respect of an incident they might have missed during the course of the game.

The motion to go before Congress urges that the Central Competitions Control Committee should take complete control of the matter, with the only communication between that body and the official in question being to clear up any ambiguities in the referee’s report.

Should the motion go though, this would force the GAA to deal with the situation centrally, with the possibility that a citing commissioner — common practice in rugby, for example — would take on the task of going through the footage of misdemeanours.

There has, of course, been sharp criticism from many quarters in relation to the more successful teams being ‘targeted’ because they invariably feature in more televised matches than other sides, but this should not be allowed to detract from the pursuit of justice.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is on record as stating that high-profile teams can find themselves in the firing line and there have also been suggestions that such a method of imposing disciplinary measures could be described as selective.

Indeed, it is known that in Kerry there is considerable disenchantment with the manner in which retrospective discipline is currently administered and the players there now refer to the RTE coverage of matches as “CSI Sunday Game” tongue in cheek — we think!

I believe that the Association can benefit considerably if these important motions are passed at Congress as this will help clear up grey areas and anomalies which have been apparent for far too long.

We cannot afford to stand still, particularly when it comes to the administration of justice.

Next month will be the time to talk — then that talk can subsequently be translated into meaningful action.

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