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Rasharkin appeal over violence sees sanctions reduced

An Ulster club hit by some of harshest penalties handed down to any unit of the Association for some time has had the punitive measures diluted on appeal to the Ulster Council Hearings Committee.

St Mary's Rasharkin was initially suspended from all competitions above Minor level next year and had four members expelled from the Association and four others suspended for lengthy periods by the Antrim Competitions Control Committee following violence which marred the club's game against Lamh Dhearg in the U21 football championship semi-final.

Now the provincial Hearings Committee has decreed that the ban on the club's participation in games above Minor level next year should be rescinded but that the team must play all games away from home.

The club will also be bound over for two years and should any serious incidents of indiscipline occur during this period then it will be answerable directly to the Ulster Council.

The club though has been banned from participating in the 2012 Antrim U21 football championship and has been fined £500.

St Mary's now have the option of taking their case to Croke Park if they feel dissatisfied with the outcome of their appeal.

Only last year the club won the Antrim intermediate football championship title following victory in a replayed final against Dunloy.

They went on to represent Antrim in the Ulster Club championship, losing to eventual All- Ireland intermediate champions Lisnaskea Emmets at the semi-final stage.

This year St Mary's, which has produced a number of highly talented players in recent years, captured the O'Cahan Cup, the premier trophy on offer to senior clubs in the south-west region, before going on to finish in fourth position in the All-County senior league.

But the implications of having to play all their senior games away from home next year could prove serious although officials remain upbeat that despite the disciplinary setbacks there will still be an incentive for the team to build on the progress that was made this year.

The imposition of a £500 fine on any club in the current financial climate is a huge burden to bear while the loss of members through expulsion is viewed as a big blow.

The fact that the club has good under-age structures in place is a plus-factor but it may take time for St Mary's to recover from the penalties to which they have been subjected in what has proven to be a dark period for Ulster football in a disciplinary context.

* INTER-COUNTY hurlers and footballers will receive grants worth between €350 and €730 (£293 and £612) in the coming days as part of the scheme initiated by the Gaelic Players' Association.

The money covers the 2011 season and is performance related with All-Ireland finalists naturally receiving the higher figure.

But the future of the scheme is "under consideration" with cuts to the Sports Council's budget announcement as part of the recent two day budget package.

The top rate of funding is down in line with the overall cuts to Sports Council funding announced in last year's scheme.

The payments have been dramatically eroded since the scheme was introduced first in 2008.

The Gaelic Players' Association are adamant that the scheme has to remain in place, as much for the principle as for the money provides to its members.

Belfast Telegraph