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Cliftonville and Ballymena given Irish Cup boosts as players see bans overturned by arbitration cases

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Cliftonville's Jamie Harney

Cliftonville's Jamie Harney

Cliftonville's Jamie Harney

Cliftonville and Ballymena United have confirmed their arbitration cases against the Irish FA Appeals Board regarding suspensions ahead of their Irish Cup semi-finals has been successful.

The Reds opposed the Appeal Board's decision not to overturn suspensions handed out to players Jamie Harney and Garry Breen prior to the coronavirus lockdown, arguing that, under the IFA's Disciplinary Code, they should not have to serve their bans once play resumed.

Ballymena argued the same for left-back Steven McCullough and manager David Jeffrey, who were set to sit out Monday's semi-final against rivals Coleraine, while Cliftonville were due to be without Harney and Breen for their last-four tie against Glentoran, with Breen also suspended for the final if they progressed.

It is also good news for any player who had received a suspension prior to local football going on lockdown, with this ruling meaning that a whopping 324 pre-existing short-term suspensions have been quashed.

Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor had been the one to voice his concerns that, due to the precedent set by the original ruling, a large number of local players could have missed their first competitive games after lockdown due to suspensions carried over.

Both Cliftonville and Ballymena had appealed their players' original suspensions, arguing that the lengthy lay-off caused by the coronavirus pandemic negated the bans, however they were rejected by the IFA Appeals Board.

The clubs argued that under Article 15.3 in the IFA's Disciplinary Code, a suspension will be deemed to have been served in any match that is abandoned, cancelled or voided, unless the fixture was halted due to the fault of the club in question.

That argument was rejected by the Disciplinary Panel though, which, in their statement on the matter, claimed that Article 15.3 was not written with a global pandemic in mind.

The Disciplinary Panel had also cited that the overriding objective of the whole Disciplinary Code is to 'maintain and promote fair play' and to ensure that indiscipline is dealt with 'fairly', leading to them dismissing the original appeals.

But now both Harney and Breen will be available for Cliftonville's meeting with Glentoran tomorrow night at Windsor Park (8pm), while it seems highly likely that Jeffrey will be on the touchline and McCullough will be free to line out for Ballymena when they clash with Coleraine at the same venue (4pm).

Belfast Telegraph