Belfast Telegraph

Casement thrilled as ruling frees him to play in final

By Graham Luney

Chris Casement has spoken of his “enormous relief” after being cleared to play in next weekend’s Irish Cup final. The Portadown defender looked on course to miss the showpiece occasion against Glentoran at The Oval after being hit with a six-match ban for an alleged headbutt on Dungannon Swifts player Terry Fitzpatrick last month.

Fitzpatrick and other eye witnesses said there was no headbutt and the Irish FA Appeals Committee concluded the ban should be lifted.

In a detailed statement issued last night, the Irish FA said: “The truth, as we see it, is that the assistant referee is mistaken.”

Casement said: “I was really nervous and did not know what to expect but I’m delighted it is all over and the truth has finally come out.

“I would like to thank Portadown for all their support and Terry Fitzpatrick for his willingness to make time to support my case.

“I don’t know Terry at all but he showed what a top professional and true gentleman he is.

“I just feel enormous relief right now.”

"I'm delighted the right decision has been made. This has been hanging over me for a long time and it's been difficult to deal with.

"I just want to focus on my football starting with the game against Linfield and it's time to put this behind me and move on.

"The important thing is that the correct decision has been made and it's a huge weight off my mind."

The 27-year-old was sent off by referee Keith Kennedy during a Premiership match at Shamrock Park on March 14 after the assistant referee claimed he witnessed a headbutt.

At the original disciplinary hearing Portadown used video and verbal evidence, including testimony from Fitzpatrick himself, to support their case that Casement should have his red card rescinded.

Fitzpatrick told the Belfast Telegraph last week that it would be "an absolute disgrace" if Casement was ruled out of the final.

The Appeals Committee referred to Swifts ace Fitzpatrick as a "credible and believable witness" who showed "a mature and refreshing attitude."

The statement added: "There are factors with the observation made by the assistant referee which cause us to doubt the accuracy of his observation.

"The distance (some 50 metres), the potential for an interfering player in his line of sight, the movement of the players toward each other and the fracas that was taking place.

"He was not helped by the actions of the players, neither was he assisted by the match observer. The referee was busy dealing with another incident.

"The mistake is understandable, and human, but it is a mistake nonetheless.

"We have no difficulty in finding that it was an obvious mistake.

"The test is objective, which means that it is up to us to decide based upon all the evidence on the balance of probabilities if the mistake was obvious or clear.

"We believe that it was and that the player has discharged the burden placed upon him.

"Accordingly the suspension against Mr Casement is lifted and he is free to play in his club's next fixtures, which includes, if selected, the Irish Cup final."

Casement is available for selection for Portadown's home clash with Linfield today.

Dungannon Swifts assistant boss Rodney McAree said: "Delighted that common sense prevails and Chris Casement can look forward to an Irish Cup final. Thank you to all involved for making the decision."

Linfield defender Sean Ward added: "A very thorough report ... Great to see that the decided outcome allows Chris Casement to play in the Irish Cup final."

Belfast Telegraph

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