Monday 18 December 2017

Diarmuid has three chances to get his summer back in gear

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly is facing a 12-week ban. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly is facing a 12-week ban. Photo: Sportsfile

The news that Jim Gavin, the Dublin camp and all Sky Blue supporters were dreading filtered out yesterday evening … Croke Park's chief disciplinary arm, the Central Competitions Control Committee, was proposing a 12-week ban for Diarmuid Connolly.

But what exactly does this mean? Is Connolly's summer over or is he even suspended, as we speak? And what does this potentially mean for his county's All-Ireland SFC hat-trick quest?

Here's a quick Q&A on the latest saga embroiling Dublin's mercurial All Star forward …

What has happened?

The CCCC met yesterday and proposed a 12-week suspension for Connolly, arising from his much-publicised touchline flashpoint with linesman Ciarán Branagan during last Saturday evening's Leinster SFC quarter-final win over Carlow in O'Moore Park.

TV replays showed the player placing his hand on the chest of the Down official. The incident happened just after he'd been manhandled by three opponents seeking to retrieve the ball from Connolly following a disputed sideline ball awarded to Carlow.

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly and Carlow’s Brendan Murphy tangle. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly and Carlow’s Brendan Murphy tangle. Photo: Sportsfile

No action was taken at the time by referee Seán Hurson, or indeed by Branagan, but the GAA rule book states clearly that "minor physical interference" with a match official carries a minimum suspension of 12 weeks, across all grades and codes.

Having reviewed footage, the CCCC has evidently decided that retrospective action in this case was warranted.

Is he suspended?

Not yet, at least. In disciplinary cases, the CCCC can only recommend punishments but the cited player is under no obligation to accept its proposal. Moreover, since Connolly was not sent off in the first place, he is not automatically suspended pending a hearing.

What next?

It is almost certain that Connolly, backed by the Dublin County board, will offer a staunch defence - in which case he will bring his case before the Central Hearings Committee (CHC). No date has been finalised but Dublin, you would imagine, will be anxious to expedite any hearing so that this doesn't drag on and become a circus played out in front of the media.

So he has one chance?

Actually, he has three. If the CHC upholds the proposed 12-week ban, Connolly has the right to appeal this verdict to the Central Appeals Committee (CAC).

And if that were to fail, his final port of call would be the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA), which acts as an independent arbitration body to resolve GAA disputes, including contested suspensions.

Would it go that far?

Don't rule it out. After all, Connolly is no stranger to the DRA having successfully challenged the red card that threatened his participation in the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo.

On that occasion, unusually, the DRA decision was by a split majority ruling (2-1) and it concluded a whirlwind of hearings and appeals, three in all, conducted in a matter of days between drawn semi-final and replay. This time, at least, Dublin have more time on their side as their next game isn't until June 25 (18 days hence) when they face Westmeath or Offaly in a provincial semi-final.

But what if he loses?

You mean, what will a 12-week punishment mean for player and county? Personally, it would be a disaster for the St Vincent's man and it could also be hugely damaging to Dublin's All-Ireland prospects.

Presuming they go the direct route, they would be without his services for three games - a Leinster semi-final and final, followed by an All-Ireland quarter-final. Obviously a back door detour would see him miss more games … on the proviso that Dublin don't suffer a shock early exit.

One minor consolation? His suspension would have lapsed just in time for a potential All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday, August 27.

Possible replacements?

Dublin may have an abundance of forward talent but whether anyone can directly replace Connolly is questionable. Paul Flynn didn't start last weekend and would be an obvious recall option in the half-forward line, albeit perhaps not on the '40'. Ciarán Kilkenny could return to his old haunt, having featured more at midfield against Carlow. Kevin McManamon spent much of last summer operating from centre-forward, although he struggled for form last weekend.

What would Dublin miss?

Connolly's magnificent range of passing. The kickout option he provides whenever Stephen Cluxton aims long. His impressive penalty strike rate, and his ability to nail points off either foot from distance - an invaluable weapon to counter the blanket defence tactic that Dublin are likely to face several more times this summer.

His prospects?

Still reasonably good, we suspect, given the might of legal expertise that Dublin are likely to arm themselves with … and not forgetting Connolly's penchant for avoiding suspensions in the past, with red cards against Donegal (2011) and Mayo (2015) both rescinded.

Have we heard the last of this?

Don't be daft. This could run and run ...


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