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Fitzpatrick evidence unfair, insist Antrim

 

By Declan Bogue

The overturning of Antrim forward Matthew Fitzpatrick's 48-week suspension for 'misleading an investigation' was thrown out by the Central Appeals Committee because of a loophole, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Antrim prepared an extensive appeal document, which the Belfast Telegraph has seen, ultimately focusing on a technicality that proves a piece of evidence was not used fairly.

Fitzpatrick (below) had been served with a one-game suspension twice over for the offence of striking with the hand, but had successfully appealed it twice.

On Monday night, he was charged with the graver offence of 'misleading an investigation' and handed a 48-week ban. But this was thrown out on Wednesday night.

The lengthy suspension had been imposed only after the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) had shown Fitzpatrick a much longer video clip of the incident, thereby allowing him to identify himself beyond all doubt.

However, because the full video clip was not made available to Fitzpatrick, it became tainted evidence.

The appeal document noted: "The striking infraction hearing was held on the 12th April and the player was entitled to conclude that the matter had been finalised. It was never suggested that there was an adjournment - the player and the witness who attended left the hearing convinced that the hearing had been concluded. There is no provision in Treoraí Oifigiúl (Official Rule book) to all the Central Competitions Control Committee to repeatedly bring a case back to the CHC. The decision to do so is a flagrant breach of the universal recognised principle of double jeopardy.

"The sole issue before the CHC for the striking infraction was whether it was possible to identify the player in question. The CHC finding merely reflected the reality that the extended video made it possible to make a meaningful identification of the player. Matthew Fitzpatrick was present at the lengthy hearing of the CHC and despite repeated viewings of the original video they were unable to identify the player.

"It is obvious that the case would have taken an entirely different course but for the central failing of the CCCC to view and disclose the extended footage."

Fermanagh are without injured Declan McCusker and Ryan Jones for the trip to Clones for tomorrow's Ulster preliminary round against Monaghan.

Conor Murphy of Kinawley comes in to make his Championship debut, while Kane Connor is named at corner-forward, but will likely take up a position in the backline.

Monaghan are without Darren Hughes through injury.

Fermanagh (v Monaghan, USFC): T Treacy; M Jones, C Cullen, C McManus; A Breen, R McCluskey, C Murphy; E Donnelly, L Cullen; B Mulrone, R Lyons, P McCusker; K Connor, S Quigley, T Corrigan

Monaghan (v Fermanagh, USFC): R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe, V Corey, N McAdam; K Hughes, K O'Connell; G Doogan, S Carey, D Ward; C McCarthy, J McCarron, C McManus

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