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10th May 2017

OPINION: The GAA are farcically wrong to punish Jason Forde over Davy Fitz incident

Tipp are 100% correct to appeal the ban

Niall McIntyre

Davy Fitzgerald caused an awful commotion, didn’t he?

The Wexford manager earned himself an eight-week, two game suspension “from all functions, privileges and competitions under the Association’s control but not from membership of the Association.”

The Clare man didn’t regret his incursion on to the pitch in the league semi-final against Tipperary, however.

“I wouldn’t because it’s important to make the point it changed the game,” said Davy Fitz. “Maybe plus the fact I was trying to get my own team going, they were after getting a blow, you’re trying to rise them and get them going a small bit so there might have been two or three different things I was trying to do in that one.”

Jason Forde, the Tipperary midfielder who met Fitzgerald with the gentlest of chest bumps before unthreateningly raising his hurl towards the Model manager, initially received a two-match ban from the GAA for his involvement. A two-match ban that was categorised under ‘assaulting an opposing team official.’

Although ‘assaulting’ was soon amended to ‘contributing to a melee’ before the Central Hearings Committee, where Forde’s ban was reduced from two games to one, his punishment is still farcically wrong.

Even Davy Fitzgerald himself believes so – the three-times All-Star reportedly contacted Tipperary boss Michael Ryan to offer his assistance as Forde contested his suspension.

If Forde standing his ground against an irate manager, who said himself he was trying to ‘rise’ his own team, is wrong then there are thousands of ‘wrong’ actions in every hurling game.

Our hurlers are in the spotlight, they are under pressure from spectators, pundits, themselves and many more. They train like professionals, dedicating their lives to this amateur game.

In the heat of battle our players are competitive, they have a one-track-mind and they will be doing everything they can to ensure they perform to their best and the team does too.

Sometimes a player can cross the line, when they dangerously take out an opposing player or otherwise. Forde hasn’t done anything even remotely dangerous here. No lines have been crossed. Fitzgerald crossed a line, in more ways than one, and he has been deservedly punished. To punish Forde for his reaction is wrong. Hits like Johnny Maher’s infamous rampage against St Thomas’s in a Galway club match are those that deserve to be taken to task. Forde’s actions are of no relation.

The GAA are going against their own principals in banning Forde for his actions.

The 23-year-old would likely have been criticised for a lack of passion by Tipperary fans had he not stood up for his county against Fitzgerald. For the GAA to reprimand Forde for this display of spirit and pride in his jersey is way off-the-mark. Forde was merely standing up for the Tipperary jersey and he did so in a non-violent, non-dangerous way.

The Wexford players who reacted to Forde and were in turn ‘contributing’ to the ensuing ‘melée’ – more of a harmless gathering of players – hit Forde much harder than he hit Fitzgerald. The manager is not made of glass, remember.

This was a farcically harsh punishment for the GAA to issue to the Silvermines clubman. What must be remembered here is that Forde had absolutely nothing to do with the causing of this problem. Davy Fitzgerald was the instigator. He has been punished, there’s no need to drag the innocent Forde into it.

“The proposed punishment does not fit the crime, in my opinion. We’ll just be looking that balance and fairness will be the order of the day when we make our case in Croke Park,” said Tipperary manager Ryan, who went on to claim the ban was “horrendous”.

Not surprisingly, Tipperary have confirmed that they will appeal against Forde’s one-match suspension, which currently rules the former minor and Under-21 captain out of the Munster SHC quarter-final against Cork on Sunday week.

Tipp will bring their case to the next level, to the Central Appeals Committee, and rightly so. Hopefully this committee will see sense, understand the pressure players are under and right the wrongs they have made.

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