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Antrim may get reprieve in qualifiers

 

By Declan Bogue

Antrim's senior football team are nervously awaiting the contents of referee Fergal Kelly's match report into their loss to Sligo on Saturday, after it emerged there is a chance they could make a dramatic return to this year's All-Ireland Football Championship this weekend.

Sligo used seven substitutes during Saturday's game, in contravention of the rules. However, if the Connacht men can prove that Mark Breheny left the field as a blood sub following a collision with St. Brigid's midfielder Jack Dowling, they may be free to enter the next round against Meath.

If it is not specified that Breheny's injury was as a blood sub - and given he did not re-appear during the match, it could be accepted that Kealan Cawley was a permanent replacement - then Antrim have a case.

Either way, the Saffrons have already set the wheels in motion, informing their county board of the situation. Board chiefs were preparing to ask officials in the Central Competitions Control Committee - whom they have become familiar with during the four visits of Matthew Fitzpatrick to Croke Park concerning his possible suspension - to look into the matter.

A precedent was set last year when Laois made seven subs in a qualifier win over Armagh, who were granted a replay which they also lost. Antrim may now also be offered a replay.

Joint Antrim manager Gearoid Adams believes the Saffrons would be justified in pushing for a replay of Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier game against Sligo, given the controversial sending-off of midfielder Jack Dowling.

The Saffrons stand to get another bite at the cherry if Sligo are found guilty of using seven substitutes in the win.

“I looked at Jack Dowling’s tackle again, and initially I thought it was clumsy and I still have that belief. But it was something that changed the entire game,” said Adams after reviewing the red card awarded to the big St. Brigid’s man. 

“The black card that Mark Sweeney got later in the game was a major factor too, but it was a black card.

“But the call on Jack was a big call.

“We were in control, we were playing well and that turned the tide.”

On the blood substitute rule in general, Adams questioned how they lost Ryan Murray to a dislocated shoulder in the final league game against Longford, yet were not allowed to replace him as there was no blood produced.

And he believes they have a right to another crack at Sligo.

He said: “I watched the Sunday Game and Pat Spillane talked about it for 30 seconds and mentioned Sligo scoring 12 points against the run of play (but) we lost a man, went down to 14 men and were chasing.”

 

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