Clubs left in shock as GAA lay down law
Eleven players suspended and fines totalling €7,000 left Derrytresk and Dromid Pearses in shock last night after the GAA's disciplinary authorities came down hard on the clubs arising from ugly incidents in the AIB All-Ireland junior club football semi-final in Portlaoise last Sunday week.
Although the GAA made no comment on the matter, it's understood that the Central Competitions Control Committee have recommended that eight Derrytresk players -- four of the starting 15 and four subs -- be suspended and that the Tyrone club be fined €5,000.
Three Dromid Pearses players are to be suspended while the club has been hit with a €2,000 fine. In the case of the Kerry club, it's understood that one player received two suspensions -- of three and two months -- a second player got a two-month ban, and a third was suspended for a month.
Both clubs now have the option of taking their case to the Central Hearings Committee and, if that fails, they can proceed to the Appeals Committee and onto the DRA if required.
The suspensions, if upheld, will have a serious impact on Derrytresk, who play Clonbur (Galway) in the All-Ireland club final in Croke Park on Sunday week. Losing eight players from a small panel would have a devastating blow on their prospects of landing a first All-Ireland title so it's highly likely they will take their case through all available channels in an effort to have the CCCC recommendation overturned.
The CCCC investigated the unsavoury incidents in great detail, examining all available video footage and interviewing witnesses. It was always likely that they would deal sternly with the clubs as the TV pictures which emerged from the fracas were a serious embarrassment to the GAA. It's understood that senior Croke Park officials were greatly concerned that the footage -- which has received a huge number of hits on YouTube -- would damage the GAA brand just as the new season is getting under way.
There were calls from Dromid for Derrytresk to be ejected from the All-Ireland championship, an option which wasn't really available, but if the Tyrone champions have to play the final without eight players, it effectively wrecks their prospects of winning the title.
They met last night to consider their next move -- as did Dromid -- but with the GAA intent on sending out a clear message that violence won't be tolerated, the prospects of having the punishments quashed or amended look remote.
Meanwhile, Derrytresk captain Cathal O'Neill says his club reached the final "on merit" and are determined to enjoy the Croke Park experience.
"Last year was our first ever championship success in more than a hundred years," said O'Neill, who won an All-Ireland minor medal with Tyrone in 2004 and is tipped to feature for inclusion on Mickey Harte's senior squad after the conclusion of the club campaign.
"Our club has never had much success. To be in Croke Park is massive in itself, never mind what's at stake. It has brought the lads together in a tight group," he said.
O'Neill also insisted that the fallout from the semi-final would not undermine Derrytresk, although he wasn't aware at that stage of the severe punishments that were coming their way.
"It has been the talk of the place -- the one thing on everyone's lips. We're just trying to focus on ourselves because we have a final to prepare for. We've been training hard and everyone is trying to get their heads focused on the prize," he said. It can be a bit distracting, but it's up to players to try to distance themselves from it.
"The higher members (officers) in the club have been dealing with it while the players have been training away."
Derrytresk beat Dromid by seven points and had high hopes of winning the final but yesterday's suspension blitz has changed the entire landscape.
Opponents Clonbur, who are managed by former Galway star Stephen Joyce, looked extremely accomplished when easily beating Ballivor (Meath) in the other semi-final and now look certain to land their first All-Ireland crown.