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Orchard's McGeeney served with a 12-week suspension

 

By John Campbell

Armagh have been dealt a major pre-Ulster Championship worry following a twelve-week suspension which has been proposed for manager Kieran McGeeney.

It is understood the ban on the county's 2002 All-Ireland winning captain stems from an incident involving linesman Joe McQuillan which took place during the Armagh v Antrim Allianz League Division Three contest at the Athletic Grounds on March 25.

The game, which McGeeney's side won, saw three players - Conor Murray and Stephen Beatty of Antrim and Armagh's Stephen Sheridan - shown red cards by referee Niall Cullen.

However, it has now emerged that McGeeney is also in the dock for his part in an incident with another official, Joe McQuillan.

McGeeney, with the backing of the Armagh county board, appealed to the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) but his plea was unsuccessful.

It remains unclear if McGeeney will contest the issue further but he could bring the matter to the Central Appeals Committee (CAC) and even the Disputes Resolutions Authority (DRA) should he see fit.

If he accepts the ban at this point, he will not be permitted to patrol the sideline for Armagh's Ulster Championship quarter-final tie against neighbours and great rivals Down at Pairc Esler, Newry on June 4.

McGeeney's suspension comes on the heels of the eight-week ban imposed on Wexford hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald following his incursion onto the pitch and confrontation with a Tipperary player during last Sunday's Allianz Hurling League final at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick.

Fitzgerald's ban is viewed as particularly harsh and has aroused considerable fervour on social media.

McGeeney has been preparing diligently for his team's forthcoming clash with Down.

It is a match he is particularly keen to see the Orchard County win following their disappointing end to the Allianz League when defeat in their last game of the campaign by Tipperary consigned them to Division Three for another year.

McGeeney's absence could impact on Armagh's progress in the championship, particularly as he has just recently welcomed back several players to his side who he feels can bolster their chances of making progress in the Ulster series.

James Morgan, Andrew Murnin and Jamie Clarke are among those who have returned to the county colours and helped to provide encouragement for the Ulster Championship despite the low-key ending to the league campaign.

Meanwhile, triple Tyrone All-Ireland winner Owen Mulligan could be on the verge of making a championship comeback, only this time in the colours of London.

The Cookstown player moved over to work in London recently where he linked up with the Fulham Irish club.

Last weekend saw his sporting career take a rather different turn when he was introduced as a substitute for the Fulham outfit against Granuile in the London hurling championship.

This helps to cement his eligibility to turn out for London in the Connacht championship this year.

They will meet Sligo in the first round, and the possible inclusion of Mulligan will undoubtedly bolster the team's chances of obtaining an all too rare win in the competition.

The Connacht series will commence on Sunday week and is expected to be won by Mayo, who were surprisingly beaten in last year's final by Galway.

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