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Key suspensions a blow for Oak Leafs' McKenna Cup hopes

By Declan Bogue

With a number of Derry players currently in limbo after being hit with lengthy suspensions, Oak Leaf manager Brian McIver could be facing January's Dr McKenna Cup without some of his brightest talent. Ballinderry players Gareth McKinless, Aaron Devlin and Michael Conlan have been handed 12-month sentences in punishments arising from scenes following Slaughtneil's dramatic last-gasp victory in the Derry county final.

McKinless and Devlin are defenders who are expected to play a major part in the development of this present Derry side.

Slaughtneil's Gerard Bradley scored a late goal and a number of Ballinderry players were unhappy with the decision of the umpires and referee Anthony Campbell. At the final whistle, some ugly scenes ensued with a number of officials being struck.

And, in a move that is the first of its kind, Aaron Devlin's punishment arises from a tweet he posted on social media forum Twitter.

The Derry Competitions Control Committee are understood to have taken a very dim view of the events and have subsequently answered with an emphatic series of bans.

The club will also lose home advantage for adult league games for a year, as a financial penalty for the events.

Two other players, Collie Devlin and James Conway, have received one-match Championship bans.

A number of supporters are also reported to have been handed bans, following the disturbances at Celtic Park.

It signifies a hardline approach to indiscipline that is growing among GAA officialdom.

Just this week, the GAA's Central Council announced that managers could lose sideline privileges if they make derogatory or leading remarks about match officials prior to, or after, a game.

In the manner of such actions, the bans take the form of proposed bans, and those punishments are open to appeal from the club.

Such an appeal may result in a reduction in the severity, if they find favour with the Central Hearings Committee.

Meanwhile, McIver has revealed that he would prefer another staging of the O'Fiaich Cup.

This time last year, Derry, Armagh, Down and Louth played in the four-team tournament and the Oak Leafs emerged as the winners.

At the time, it was hailed by all as a means to gain structured matches and it is something that McIver would be eager to continue.

"As of the minute we have only a fairly small panel for January, until we have a look at a few other lads," the retired schoolteacher said.

"We had intended to use the O'Fiaich Cup, and we are still hoping the O'Fiaich Cup will take place before the McKenna Cup so we can have a look at a few new lads.

"We would be happy enough getting a panel together by using the O'Fiaich Cup and McKenna Cup before the start of the National League."

And if there is no O'Fiaich Cup staged this time, McIver admits that Derry would be forced to go down the challenge match road.

"We really don't want to be going down that road," he commented.

Belfast Telegraph

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