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Wednesday 16 October 2019

Black cloud - why O'Brien suspension will be overturned

Stephen O’Brien of Kerry drags down Connor McAliskey of Tyrone resulting in a black card at Croke Park on Sunday
Stephen O’Brien of Kerry drags down Connor McAliskey of Tyrone resulting in a black card at Croke Park on Sunday

Kerry were expected to be issued with notice of Stephen O'Brien's automatic one-match suspension by the CCCC today and equally, were immediately expected to request a hearing to have the Kenmare man cleared to play in the All-Ireland SFC final on September 1.

The first part is a formality in a technical sense. In truth, the second part is likely to be little more than that as well.

Under rule, a player who receives i) three black cards within that year's League and Championship campaign, ii) three double yellow cards iii) three instances of a black card following a yellow card in a match, or any combination of the previous three, is suspended for a match.

O'Brien picked up a yellow and a black against Galway in the League in February as well as a black against Meath in Navan on August 3.

That left him one black card from a ban going into last Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone.

In the final stages of the match, with Kerry four points ahead, O'Brien dragged down Tyrone sub Connor McAliskey and was handed his third of the season by Maurice Deegan.

A black card can only be challenged when three have been accumulated and a suspension is pending.

It is the second one against Meath in Navan on which Kerry will hang their bid to clear O'Brien.

In the relevant incident, O'Brien collided with Darragh Campion off the ball with the Meath player then falling to the ground.

Fergal Kelly issued a black card, presumably for a 'deliberate body collide', one of five offences which are punishable by a black card.

Kerry will now have to satisfy a hearings committee that, technically, it wasn't a black card offence.

Video footage of the incident is clear and though the matter will come down the collective opinion of the CHC, it would be difficult to emphatically conclude that O'Brien deliberately collided with Campion.

In the unlikely event that Kerry fail to convince the CHC, they have the facility of taking the case to the Central Appeals Committee and subsequently, the DRA.

They could also question the validity of O'Brien's first offence in the League, when black cards were punished by a stint in the 'sin bin' during the experimental rules trial and only counted towards cumulative suspensions when they combined with a yellow.

If O'Brien is suspended, he would be the first footballer to miss the All-Ireland final due to a ban this century.

In 2017, Waterford's Conor Gleeson missed the hurling decider after he was sent off for striking with the hurley in their semi-final victory over Cork. After the CHC denied Waterford's attempt to have the sanction downgraded to a yellow, Waterford decided not to pursue the matter any further.

Similarly, in 2001, Tipperary's Brian O'Meara was suspended for four weeks after he was sent off in the All-Ireland semi-final for an off-the-ball incident with Liam Dunne - who was also given a red card - against Wexford and missed the subsequent final against Galway.

The last footballer to have a ban hanging over his head going into an All-Ireland final was Diarmuid Connolly, who successfully appealed the red card he was issued in the semi-final against Donegal in 2011.

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