GAA Football

Bans hurt Armagh more than Donegal: Devenney

Donegal and Armagh fight on the final whistle during the National Football League Division 1 match played at O'Donnell Park, Letterkenny on Sunday. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.

THE proposed suspensions of Ciaran Mackin, Aidan Nugent and Stefan Campbell are “a much bigger blow” to Armagh than the losses of Odhran McFadden-Ferry and Neil McGee are to Donegal, believes ex-Tir Chonaill star Brendan Devenney.

The Irish News revealed yesterday the five have all been hit with one-match bans arising from the dust-up after the end of their league meeting in Letterkenny on Sunday.

The counties were informed on Tuesday night that the five had been cited in the referee’s report for contributing to a melee.

That the bans are all off the back of the referee’s report rather than any potential CCCC investigation into the incident indicates that video footage has not been brought into play at this stage.

However, should the counties decide to ask for hearings before the cut-off point of 5pm today, that could prove a double-edged sword by introducing video evidence and possibly inviting further ramifications.

Letterkenny native Devenney was at the game on Sunday and admits there was a “bit of an edge” to the latter stages of the game which fed into the incident, but feels the five players hit with bans could all feel hard done by.

“It comes down to the ref and what he saw. In those type of brawls, how is a ref going to be able to determine what happened?

“When those brawls are happening, there’s so much going on you haven’t a clue, your eyes are going everywhere. The players that were picked out are the fall guys now, I feel bad for them.

“I know Neil McGee has seen the least action of any of them and whether he would have had any part to play is questionable, but for all the work those boys are putting in, the championship game is massive.

“You’re thinking even more so for Armagh with the season they’ve had and the buzz they’ve created, it’s horrible for them.

“It was an unbelievable atmosphere on Sunday and to rob those players of that again, when it’ll be turned up three or four notches, is really tough.

“If they deserved it you’d take it, fair enough, but pulling them out of that melee, it doesn’t make any sense at all. In many ways, they’re the fall guys.

“It’s definitely a much bigger blow to Armagh than it is to Donegal. With Donegal at home, you’re talking about a game of inches, Armagh are two starters down and Campbell might have come in and done something, it’s a huge blow for them.”

Devenney felt the row, which happened just after the final whistle had gone on a one-point Donegal win that ensured their Division One status, was “a bit childish” and “a pity” and feels that after the five bans that arose from red cards late on in Armagh’s win over Tyrone earlier in the campaign, the GAA are making a point.

“I think the GAA are trying to come down on it, but I’m a bit bemused at how they did it.

“The one on Sunday did have a wee bit more of an edge to it. There was a huge Armagh support on Sunday and that led a comeback from them, and the tension was there, with championship on the horizon.

“You got the feeling with Armagh that they weren’t going to be pushed about. It’s a thing in football, neither side wants to give an inch, so when the pushing and dragging starts, everyone comes in because they’re saying ‘you’re not gonna push us about’.

“It’s a bit childish, it leads to a whole melee of pulling and dragging. It was just a pity that happened.

“It’s certainly a marker being laid down by the powers that be to say ‘here, cut the crap or you’ll miss big championship games’.

“Players now are smart enough not to throw a punch because it’ll be highlighted, but there is still that thing of don’t get pushed about that leads to that kind of incident.”

The counties have until this evening to call on the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) to hear their cases, after which they can take it to the Central Appeals Committee (CAC) and ultimately the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA).

However, the fact that the bans handed down to Tyrone quartet Padraig Hampsey, Michael McKernan, Peter Harte and Kieran McGeary, and Armagh’s Greg McCabe, were all upheld last month doesn’t bode well for either side’s chances.

Because the players are understood to have been cited for ‘contributing to a melee’, the onus now falls on the county to disprove the case.

It means that Armagh and Donegal would realistically have to provide footage which completely exonerates their players if they’re to succeed with any appeal.

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