CROKE Park officials have been left red-faced after Tipperary forward Lar Corbett and Kilkenny defender JJ Delaney were cleared to line out in the first round of their respective provincial championships.
A rule-book technicality means that Corbett can play against Limerick on 9 June in the Munster SHC semi-final – with Delaney also eligible for Kilkenny’s Leinster SHC quarter-final clash against Offaly in Tullamore on the same day.
Corbett and Delaney, both former Hurlers of the year, were sent off in last Sunday’s Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 final at Nowlan Park following a second half goalmouth fracas – and four-week time-based suspensions have been imposed.
It had been thought that the pair would each receive one-match bans, to extend from the League into the first round of the championship, but a recent case involving Longford defender Barry Gilleran appears to have cleared them.
Gilleran is free to play against Wicklow in the first round of the Leinster SFC – despite being red-carded in the Garden County’s final League game of the season against Louth on 7 April. However, Longford officials successfully appealed the championship ban to the Central Appeals Committee – on the basis that the rule under which Gilleran was suspended effectively expired on 31 December, 2012.
Referee Barry Kelly gives Delaney and Corbett their marching orders. (Credit: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan)
A rule introduced in 2012, covering the National League and championship, ensured that if a player was sent off in a competitive match, he was thereby suspended for his team’s next outing.
Central Council extended that rule into 2013 at a meeting early this year – but Longford successfully argued that the governing body did not have the power do so.
When Annual Congress in Derry retained the 2012 rule, the 2013 National League campaign had already commenced.
Consequently, Gilleran’s one-match ban applied under a rule that had expired at the end of last year and was not officially in place for the 2013 campaign. Longford, exploiting a loophole relating to rule 7.2 (b) of the GAA’s Official Guide, won their case on that basis. As a result, Gilleran was banned for four weeks from April 7 and that suspension lifted at midnight last Saturday – in plenty of time for the Wicklow game on 26 May.
Longford first went to the GAA’s Central Hearings Committee with their case but the CHC did not have the power to overturn a Central Council decision. They were, however, successful at Central Appeals Committee level.
Last night, Tipperary county board chairman Sean Nugent confirmed that Corbett is free to line out against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds, four weeks from tomorrow. He said: “It’s a great boost and we’re delighted.”
But doubt surrounds the availability of the Thurles Sarsfields player in any event after he sustained broken ribs against the Cats last Sunday.
Corbett  revealed this week that he is facing 4-6 weeks out of action with the injury and that leaves the 2010 Hurler of the year facing a race against time to be fit.
Following these dramatic developments, four-week bans for Corbett and Delaney will expire at midnight on 1 June, ensuring that both players are eligible for their championship openers a week later. Furthermore, they will not have to serve a one-match ban at the start of next year’s Allianz National League.
The GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) insisted last night that they would be issuing no official comment.
What do you think? Have the GAA missed a trick or should both players be allowed to move on?