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GAA disciplinary structures "are working"

By John Campbell

The GAA may have faced up to some huge headaches to date in 2010 including hugely embarrassing refereeing controversies yet the Disputes Resolution Authority has reported a substantial decrease in the number of disciplinary cases which has been submitted to it since January.

Gaelic football has certainly not become totally sanitised, though.

There have been unseemly incidents at a number of club games all across the country but there has not been one outbreak of what could be described as serious violence at any inter-county game.

Surprisingly, every suspension handed down by the Central Hearings Committee was accepted, counties obviously having put the emphasis on getting on with the business of playing games and winning matches rather than becoming embroiled in protracted administrative battles.

In recent years, a number of Ulster clubs and counties have taken cases on behalf of individual players to the Disputes Resolution Authority and in this connection they have enjoyed a healthy degree of success with well-known Omagh-based solicitor Fergal Logan, who formerly played for Tyrone, proving a central figure in having bans rescinded.

But while gaelic football has certainly shed its unwanted image of thuggery, it is perhaps no coincidence that counties have not had recourse to the Disputes Resolution Authority during a year in which all units of the Association have been feeling the full effects of the economic recession.

It requires the payment of a hefty fee to take a case to the DRA in addition to the substantial legal expenses involved.

Perceived loopholes have also been tightened up, making the chances of counties succeeding in having decisions overturned being reduced.

If a case is taken to the Central Hearings Committee and the complainant is still not satisfied it then goes to the DRA, the most powerful body under the GAA umbrella in terms of dispensing justice.

DRA chairman Liam Keane acknowledges that the new disciplinary structures are now working much better but he isn’t willing to take his foot off the pedal, stressing that the GAA has no room for complacency.

“It is a fact that players previously could get suspensions lifted because of ‘procedural errors’ but that is no longer the case,” points out O’Neill. “Such errors are referred back to the original decision-making body at county board level for re-hearing.”

The extremely light work-load which the DRA undertook this year was in sharp contrast to the problems which landed on its lap in 2008.

The controversial suspensions of Kerry’s Paul Galvin and Dublin’s Colin Moran and the apparently tarnished process that saw John Joe Cunningham appointed as Donegal manager were very much in the national spotlight.

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