O’Connell fails to win red card relief
Munster's miserable week continued yesterday when their appeal against Paul O'Connell's appeal was dismissed by the Heineken Cup organisers ERC.
Tony McGahan's side had desperately wanted their talisman to get some match practice ahead of their Heineken Cup must-win trip to Toulon in January, but the ERC appeals panel ruled that the decision to suspend the former Lions captain for four weeks after cuffing Ospreys' forward Jonathan Thomas should stand.
O'Connell will now be idle until Munster's visit to Toulon in three weeks' time, when anything other than a victory will condemn the two-time winners to elimination from the knock-out stages for the first time in 13 years.
O'Connell's legal team had argued in the original hearing that a yellow should have sufficed for an offence they maintained was not deliberate.
“The independent Appeal Committee appointed to hear the appeal brought by Munster player Paul O'Connell has dismissed the appeal,” said an ERC statement.
“Mr O'Connell appealed against both the finding of foul play and the four-week sanction imposed at an independent Disciplinary Hearing as a result of the red card he received during the Heineken Cup Pool 3 match against the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Sunday, 12 December, 2010.
“The independent Judicial Officer, HHJ Jeff Blackett (England), upheld the red card and determined that the act had been deliberate, but that there had been no intention to injure.
“The independent Appeal Committee heard submissions from Mr O'Connell, his solicitor, Donal Spring and from ERC Disciplinary Officer, Roger O'Connor.
“The Committee found that Mr O'Connell had not demonstrated that the original decision had been in error or that it should be overturned or varied and therefore dismissed the appeal.
“Mr O'Connell will be free to play from 10 January, 2011, as per the original decision.”
Yesterday's disappointment comes hot on the heels of the embarrassing arrest of Munster's highest-paid import, former All Blacks winger Doug Howlett, following a party in Kilkenny.
Also, Paul Warwick confirmed on Monday, just two days after a 19-15 Heineken Cup defeat to the Ospreys, that he wants to leave after rejecting a new contract.
Meanwhile, Connacht's Boxing Day Magners League clash at home to Munster has been moved to Monday December 27 at 6.10.