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Disciplinary appeal reprieves have undermined authority of referees

By Joe Kernan

When, oh when, are we going to get consistency in the administration of discipline within the GAA?

Scarcely has a red card been issued to a player these days than the machinery to have it rescinded is at full throttle.

Henry Shefflin, Conor Gormley (pictured), Patrick Horgan ... ... these are just some of the players who have gained a reprieve through the Central Hearings Committee.

Not for one moment am I suggesting that there was anything improper in relation to this about-turn in any of these cases.

But where does all this 'review' of justice leave the referees who administered the cards in the first place or in Gormley's case, where does it leave the standing of the Central Competitions Control Committee which took retrospective action after he appeared to raise his hand against Monaghan's Dessie Dolan?

There is a grave danger that the administration of justice could descend into farce and maybe it's a blessing that, barring replays, there are only four more high-profile championship encounters embracing both codes left on the agenda.

Surely this will help to minimise the possibility of further changes of heart in terms of what is deemed to be a red card offence and what is not.

It is with a sense of regret that I say it but some counties are more adept at getting players off their punishments than others.

Maybe they just word their hearings requests more subtly, I don't know. But I do know that other counties take their punishments on the chin and suffer the loss of key players, maybe for an important game or games.

I would not like to see any player miss an All-Ireland final in particular because of a one-match ban – this to me would be the ultimate sanction.

For that reason, I am glad that Conor Gormley gets the chance to line out with Tyrone on Sunday.

I have absolutely no gripe with the Carrickmore man who is an outstanding defender but I have serious reservations about a judicial mechanism that is turned on and off like a tap. Even the way the findings of the Hearings Committee are worded can be ambiguous on occasions and this most certainly does not bring clarity to some of the punitive measures.

Quite frankly, red cards are for the most part dispensed because of the application of common sense by whistlers.

That being the case, in my book it is difficult to understand why common sense is subsequently overruled so often. This is hardly the right way to go about recruiting new referees, is it?

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