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Brawl set to impact future of Armagh and Cavan

By John Campbell

The powerful Central Competitions Control Committee looks set to come down hard on both Armagh and Cavan following the pre-match fracas which tarnished last Sunday’s Ulster Championship quarter-final between the counties at the Athletic Grounds.

And the committee’s anticipated stern action could mar the future progress of both counties in their respective campaigns.

With the investigation into the incident already under way now that referee Marty Duffy’s match report has been passed to the CCCC, Armagh boss Paul Grimley and his Cavan counterpart Terry Hyland are hoping for the best but fearing the worst in terms of the committee’s determination.

Duffy took no action when the melee occurred, thus paving the way for the CCCC to take whatever action it deems necessary based on its assessment of video evidence.

In such circumstances, a disciplinary body normally avails of the opportunity to send out a sharp message to all counties - and not just to the competing counties - that incidents which disfigure the actual presentation of games will not be tolerated.

Yet it is understood that some of the video evidence is conclusive while other elements of it are inconclusive but nevertheless the CCCC is more than likely to take on board the damage done to the reputation of the Association.

Within the past 24 hours, allegations have been made by the Cavan lady flag-bearer who had taken up her position nearest to the touchline that Armagh initiated the trouble while confirmation was forthcoming that Cavan forward Martin Dunne suffered multiple fractures and breaks to his hand and wrist as a result of the brawl.

These revelations have served to heighten speculation surrounding the CCCC’s punitive action.

GAA President Liam O’Neill and Director General Paraic Duffy are known to be deeply disturbed by what happened with the former having already intimated that managers should control the way in which players line up for pre-match parades and the latter having gone on the record in the past emphasising that proper presentation of games is “paramount”.

It’s against this stark backcloth that Grimley and Hyland currently find themselves in a sporting limbo, unable to plan ahead as they would like because of uncertainty in relation to the playing resources they may have available.

The Central Competitions Control Committee could also fine both county boards as well as impose player sanctions.

Armagh are due to meet the winners of this weekend’s quarter-final between Tyrone and Monaghan in the second semi-final at Clones on Saturday June 28 while Cavan have been paired with Westmeath in Round 1B of the All Ireland qualifiers.

Player suspensions would be particularly upsetting for Armagh as they have been forced to perform without a raft of their more experienced campaigners.

Brendan Donaghy, who received treatment following the melee but was able to play, was just one of several ‘golden oldies’ who returned to frontline duty in against the Breffni outfit.

The potential loss of any player or players could impact on Armagh’s chances of reaching the Ulster final and it is expected that before Grimley takes in this week-end’s Tyrone v Monaghan match they will be fully aware of all the consequences of last Sunday’s pre-match flare-up.

If sanctions were to be imposed on Cavan players then the team’s prospects of advancing in the qualifiers would be limited.

Last year Cavan reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals in which they were beaten by Kerry at Croke Park (0-15 to 0-9) and manager Hyland had been hopeful that his side would follow up their recent promotion into Division Two in the Ulster Championship.

But with their provincial title hopes shredded, Cavan must now seek comfort through the back door route. They have been favoured with home advantage against Westmeath but if Hyland is forced to field a weakened side because of suspensions, then their Championship could be cut short.

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