Aidan O’Mahony: Rule changes might be needed in wake of Connolly saga

28 August 2016; Aidan O'Mahony of Kerry is consoled by Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

I’ve only ever been sent off twice in my career. When I sat down and thought about it, and realised it was only the twice, both in the league, I was actually surprised.

I’ve only ever been sent off twice in my career. When I sat down and thought about it, and realised it was only the twice, both in the league, I was actually surprised.

Being the sort of player that I was for Kerry, trying to get stuck in and stop forwards, you’d nearly expect it to be more. But no, and on neither occasion did I appeal it. I took my medicine, served the suspension, and life went on.

The only time I didn’t was with Rathmore. I appealed a decision and was told that if I brought in video evidence of the incident, I could get myself cleared. So in I marched with the DVD, and out I walked thinking it would all be fine now. No, the suspension stood.

Diarmuid Connolly has failed with his first appeal to the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) of a 12-week ban for putting his hands on linesman Ciaran Brannigan. Minor physical interference was proven by the CHC and it’s a story that has the potential to rumble on.

Look, it’s such a tough one to comment on. The contact by Connolly on Brannigan was minimal and the linesman didn’t make an issue about it, nor did the referee at the time. But in today’s world, where you have social media and everyone putting out their two cents’ worth, you can’t get away from it. It’s not just Tomas and the boys in the ‘Sunday Game’ studio running a microscope over these incidents.

There’s often talk about trying to wind up talented players such as Diarmuid. You know, to put him off his game and take his focus off the things he’s out there to do. He’s very talented, incredibly strong, good off both feet, and any targeting by the opposition is of course a compliment to that skill set.

I didn’t bother trying to ruffle his feathers with any dark arts when I marked him. We did jostle each other, the sort of thing you might call ‘manly stuff’, but nothing more. I think he needs to have a little chat with himself before he walks out on the field. Something along the lines of ‘grand, I’m going to get some attention, but my focus today is to kick over a few scores and make my team tick’. It might sound obvious and easy, but it might make the difference.


He has to be disappointed with how he dealt with the situation. Yes, he was in good Carlow company by the sideline at the time but he didn’t need to lay a hand on the linesman. Paul Galvin initially got six months for slapping a notebook out of Paddy Russell’s hands, and that was without any actual physical interference with the referee himself, so there does need to be a line drawn in the sand.

The GAA might need to consider rewriting the rules. What we have now opens up avenues for these sagas. Loopholes are there, and you see Joe Brolly talking about grounds for an appeal, and it drags on and on. Does the incident deserve 12 weeks? No, not when you see the actual outcome of what he did. As I’ve already said, neither the linesman nor the referee saw fit to do anything about it at the time.

John Mullane missed an All-Ireland semi-final in 2004 over a suspension that he didn’t appeal, and he’s said since that he felt he could have made the difference in the defeat to Kilkenny. It’s high stakes stuff. I saw Philip Jordan saying on Twitter that he wouldn’t have appealed if he was in Connolly’s situation but I’m not sure, I think Tyrone might well have forced him to.

You can’t blame Dublin and Connolly for doing so. If there’s an avenue and you think you have a good chance, of course you’ll do what you can to ensure your best players are available. You’d be silly not to.

Let’s say he did sit out the three months, can you expect him to then come back into the latter stages of an All-Ireland tournament and be firing on all cylinders? Certainly not. I think the rules just need to be tweaked to tighten up the appeals process and the severity of punishments based on the offences.

On another note, I see that Cork forward Paul Kerrigan has taken a bit of a shot at the Kerry media mafia. “Yeah, they kind of have a monopoly on the sportswriting and on telly. It suits them to have a cut off us all the time,” Kerrigan said.

I know Paul from playing in the Inter-provincial championships and he’s a great guy. Without him, Cork might not have squeezed through those tight games against both Waterford and Tipperary, and they need him as one of their marquee forwards.


I’d imagine he was standing up for his team because they would be frustrated with all the criticism they’ve received in the past couple of seasons. It’s not just Kerry folk in the media, but the people of Cork themselves have been giving them lots of it. People are just calling what they see.

The way I look at it, you shouldn’t prod Cork. Eventually, they’ll come good and it was only a late Hail Mary from Fionn Fitzgerald that saved us in the Munster final below in Killarney two years ago. Like the hurlers against All-Ireland champions Tipperary, when Kieran Kingston backed youth, there’s always a kick in the Rebels.

I wouldn’t have read the papers as a player and I’d imagine many still operating at that level are the same. But it’s stung Kerrigan, and that makes them dangerous.

Since the time of writing, Diarmuid Connolly and Dublin GAA have decided not to appeal the decision of the Central Hearings Committee to the Central Appeals Committee.