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Off The Fence

Off the Fence: Furious reaction to Matthew Fitzpatrick ban

Antrim's Matthew Fitzpatrick is to challenge his 48-week suspension
Padraig O Meiscill

DISGRACE. Madness. Crazy. Pathetic. Sickening. Disgusting. Joke. These are some of the terms employed by our contributors this week, and they weren’t referring to the bombshell dropped by Arlene Foster in her remarks about Michelle O’Neill.

They were, of course, reacting to the decision by the GAA’s Central Hearings Committee to slap Matthew Fitzpatrick with a 48-week ban over an alleged incident during the National League clash with Armagh.

The ban has certainly got people talking and, in Antrim at least, the feeling is one of manifest unfairness. For example, ‘Saffron fan’ argues it would be unlikely for the GAA to hit a player from a more successful footballing county with such a lengthy sentence.

“If at first you do not succeed try, try and try again. Is this the new motto of GAA in the case of Matt Fitzpatrick of Antrim,” ‘Saffron’ wonders.

“Would it happen in Dublin, Kerry or Cavan? Doubt it.”

On Twitter, the reaction was just as strong, with Antrim veteran Anto Finnegan? wondering whether Headquarters has opened a can of worms.

“The CCC’s 48; yes, 48-week ban for Matthew Fitzpatrick has set a precedent for all counties in 2017,” Finnegan wrote.

“Lets see how that goes!”

Rock footballer Aidan McGarrity was livid:? “Disgrace from the CCC handing Matthew Fitzpatrick a 48-week ban. One rule for the GAA elite, Connolly and the Dubs and another for Division Four.

Martin Kane was no less forthright in his criticism of the CHC’s ruling: “Disgrace what has happened to Matt Fitzpatrick and the handling of his suspension. Hope the hierarchy of the GAA come to their senses.”

Brendan McTaggart was so irate he had to resort to stars to get his opinion on the matter across: “How in the name of **** has Matt Fitzpatrick ended up with a 49-week [sic] suspension? This is madness! It's went from two games to a year out.”

‘Karley’? was being quite defeatist, “Fitzpatrick with a 48-week ban? Just hang up the boots love”, while Brian Laverty sees a trend emerging, “Some crazy and totally inconsistent decisions from the GAA of late,” the Tyrone man wrote.

Fiona King? was equally scathing of the Monday night’s decision: “Ah now! 48-week ban? There have been worse incidents with less or no suspensions... get it together GAA, ffs.”

Aonghus Ó Maicín also believes ?Fitzpatrick was treated differently due to his status as a player in a Division Four side: "‘Misleading an investigation’ equals a 48-week ban? Would this happen to a stronger county? Pathetic stuff.”

‘Malachy’ was singing from the same hymn sheet:? “I'd love to have seen the CHC attempt to slap a 48-week ban on a Dub,” he fantasised.

Pádraic McLaughlin, meanwhile, was feeling positively queasy about the ruling:? “Sickening from the GAA - absolutely disgusting giving the young Antrim lad a 48-week ban. What a joke.”

RESPONSE: It’s hard not to be taken aback by the length of the ban imposed by Headquarters and it has clearly caused a great deal of ill feeling among Gaels in Antrim and further afield.

For the record, it’s maybe worth keeping in mind the GAA ruled that Fitzpatrick ‘deliberately misled’ the hearing, and that was partly the reason for the severity of the sentence. But there are legs in this story yet, with another appeal on the way.


Also on Twitter, Michael Kane took issue with us fashioning the young Shealan Johnston into a Liatriom man: “In your preview to the Ulster U17 semi-final, you state Shealan Johnston is from Liatriom. He's a Kilcoo man, brother of Jerome and Ryan.”

Séamus Boyd? replied, “No slur greater than saying a Kilcoo man's from Liatriom”, while Aidan Murray? chipped in “I'm sure Liatroim would take him no bother!”

RESPONSE: We can only offer our deepest apologies for any offence caused, to partisans of either Kilcoo or Liatroim.

‘JIM Figgerty’ from county Meath has been uplifted by the performance of Ulster’s ladies’ footballers in recent months.

“As a keen supporter of ladies’ football for a good few years, the emergence of Donegal as a strong force pleases me and I hope they can go on to win a national senior title,” he writes.

“Also, well done to Cavan on their fine showing in league two. The progress of the two counties means that the girls’ game is healthy in Ulster.”

‘TYRONE Caller’ was horrified by Danny Hughes’ recent column in which he argued for two referees’ to be introduced for inter-county games.

“Danny Hughes, a couple of weeks ago talked, about two referees. Is he serious?” the astounded Red Hand man asked.

“Does he not think one’s bad enough, never mind two? Can you think of any other sport where you have four umpires, two linesmen and a referee and they can’t things right?”

And the Tyrone man called for the streamlining of officials on the pitch, “I think they need less rather than more,” he argued.

Further to ‘Conor’s’ missive in last week’s Off the Fence regarding the on-pitch attire of some inter-county footballers, ‘Anonymous’ added his support to the crusade for coordinated under garments.

“I just want to say to ‘Conor’, things will change, it may take 50 years, but they will change,” ‘Anonymous’ reassured his brother in arms.

“What do the managers of these county teams do regarding the way their teams present themselves? Personally, I think it’s an absolute disgrace. I call them the black knicker brigade.

And ‘Anonymous’ had a suggestion which is sure to ruffle a few Gaelic football feathers: “My advice to county players is to watch more soccer. Look at the Irish League and how those players present themselves, then somebody will do something about it.

“Thanks ‘Conor’ for bringing this up.”

RESPONSE: ‘The black knicker brigade’. You’ve just made my day. I’m away to find a footballer wearing cycle shorts that clash with his kit so I can shout that at him.


Off The Fence

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