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Cup semi-final in doubt over latest IFA controversy

Cliftonville’s Irish Cup semi-final replay with Linfield was last night in danger of being postponed.

The Reds are set to launch an appeal against the Irish FA’s decision to prevent emergency loan signing Paul Murphy playing in the crunch clash at the Oval which is highly unlikely to be heard before Tuesday’s match.

With Murphy deemed ineligible — despite not being cup-tied — defender Declan O’Hara (pictured) could be forced to play as a goalkeeper when the replay does take place and if the decision is upheld.

Murphy moved to Solitude yesterday in a one-month loan deal after regular number one John Connolly suffered an injury.

Back-up keeper David Wells is also injured and Reds boss Eddie Patterson will not risk 15-year old youth team custodian Gerard Duff in such a huge game — leaving O’Hara as the only viable option between the posts.

Under the ‘Qualification of Players’ section in the IFA Handbook, it states: “Any players registered after 31 March in any season will not be eligible for the competition in that season.”

While the sporting integrity of the game may not come out as the winner on this ruling, the IFA’s Challenge Cup Committee held an Emergency Meeting late last night where they upheld their own rule book.

The Reds will point to the fact that the same rule book was ignored when the replay was pencilled in for April 21 — 17 days after the original tie.

“We have heard from one Committee member to say there was no way out of the decision and we will be appealing,” said Gerard Lawlor, Director of Team Affairs at the Reds.

“I can’t see how the appeal will be heard before Tuesday’s game which means that would be called off. Eddie Patterson doesn’t think it would be fair to play a 15-year old boy in the semi-final which means we only have Declan.”

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