Portadown's star Chris Casement vows to fight and clear his name
Chris Casement will continue to fight allegations that he headbutted Dungannon Swifts' Terry Fitzpatrick, even though accepting the suspension would have cleared him to play in next month's Irish Cup final.
The Portadown defender revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that he is 'devastated' after failing to have a six-match ban for the offence wiped out at an Irish FA Disciplinary Committee hearing on Tuesday night, despite having video evidence and a statement from Fitzpatrick declaring that no headbutt took place.
The Ports are believed to be preparing an appeal, which must be lodged by tomorrow but, as things stand, Casement's suspension will now begin next Monday, ruling him out of the Ports Irish Cup decider against Glentoran on Saturday May 2 - the Shamrock Park side's first final since 2005.
An automatic one-match ban ruled Casement out of the Cup semi-final win over Ballymena United the Saturday after his red card against Dungannon and had he not appealed the subsequent six-match sanction it would have started on Monday March 23.
The Ports have played three Danske Bank Premiership matches and a Mid Ulster Cup semi-final since then and have two league games remaining this season, meaning Casement would have been back in time for the Cup final.
Missing the big day, however, isn't as important to the 27-year-old as having his name cleared.
"I could have taken the punishment, served my six-match suspension and be cleared in time to play in the Irish Cup final, but it's not about the Irish Cup final. I can't accept being made out to have done something I didn't do," said Casement.
"I can't sit back and have people thinking that I have headbutted a fellow professional.
"I won't accept a punishment for something that I didn't do and even if we weren't in the Irish Cup final I would still be doing what I can to clear my name.
"Why would a player who has been headbutted defend the person who did it? I know I wouldn't do that, so what kind of message is the Disciplinary Committee sending to Terry Fitzpatrick about his evidence?"
Casement's situation is reminiscent of another Portadown player, Marty Magee, 25 years ago.
The former striker was sent off during a match against Carrick Rangers at Taylors Avenue in December 1989 and was alleged to have headbutted a linesman before leaving the pitch.
Despite witness statements backing up his pleas of innocence Magee was eventually banned for the remainder of the season, missing the climax to the Ports first ever league title win and, ironically, also an Irish Cup final against Glentoran.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph yesterday Fitzpatrick said: "I think it's am absolute disgrace that a player should miss the Irish Cup final for something that he didn't do.
"We squared up together during the game and there was some shoving, but there was no headbutt as was alleged."
Casement has experienced having to watch an Irish Cup final from the stands before, when at Linfield, missing their win over the Ports in 2010.
This time, however, the 27-year-old will find it much harder to take.
"It was disappointing to be left out of that final in 2010, but on the day David Jeffrey made a decision to go with other players," said Casement.
"As a player you have to accept things like that, it happens, but this is a totally different situation.
"I am being ruled out because of something that I didn't do. If we don't go for a further appeal and I miss the game it will leave a very sour taste.
"I played the following year against Crusaders and came on in the next one, also against Crusaders, but those are a while ago now.
"You never know when the next big occasion will come along because they can be few and far between in your career."