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GAA: BACK IN THE DOCK; Clare slammed in Munster Council AGM report.

MUNSTER GAA chief Donie Nealon has re-opened old wounds with his report to the province's Congress next Friday night.

The Munster Council secretary, a key figure in the Colin Lynch controversy which rocked the GAA last summer, has hit out at the violent scenes which marred the province's hurling replay in late July.

He describes dealing with the fall out from row as a "horrendous experience." And he slams suggestions in Clare there was a hidden agenda against them.

Nealon makes strong reference to a precedent for suspending players involved in brawls in 1995, when Waterford met Tipperary. And he has stood by the council's decision to suspend the Clare midfielder Lynch for three months, a decision which caused uproar in the Banner and led to a series of unprecedented events.

Nealon, a full-time paid official, has maintained a strong silence since the affair which grabbed news headlines last summer.

Now his words are likely to provoke more anger in Clare and draw a strong reaction from the Banner faithful.

In a hard-hitting report, Nealon condemns the violence which marred the replay and stands by the GAA's rigid stance on the issue and the manner in which they suspended Lynch.

Only last Saturday, Clare manager Ger Loughnane reiterated his disgust at the way the Lynch issue was handled.

Loughnane claimed that the Munster Council behaved "like paramilitaries" because they convicted Lynch without using concrete evidence.

"To me, it was about a fella who gets suspended on no evidence that can be produced. If you don't go on evidence, you are behaving like paramilitaries. You are not behaving like a democratic organisation if you haven't a referee's report or video evidence.

"There was neither for Colin Lynch. People were out to get us. There was another agenda. It took off on a life of its own, but it started off as another agenda," Loughnane boomed.

Nealon's report claims the way Lynch was dealt with was similar to the punishments handed out to Tipperary duo Michael Ryan and Paul Delaney in that '95 episode.

Ryan and Delaney were suspended for an involvement in a brawl in the Tipperary/ Waterford Munster championship match, suspensions which cost Tipp as they subsequently lost to Limerick by a point.

As Nealon explains in his report there was consistency between the two incidents.

"I want to state categorically that the Munster (GAC) on this occasion adopted the very same procedures as it has often done in the past with similar referee's reports, i.e. video evidence is used, clarification is sought from the referee and his officals, members of the council present at the game give their views and the player is properly charged of an offence and given seven days' notice of the hearing.

"Our decision and procedures in '95 were appealed by Tipperary as they were appealed by Colin Lynch at the time and both appeals failed at Croke Park level and in addition at High Court level, also on this occasion where an injunction was sought to prevent our GAC dealing with the matter," writes Nealon.

The former Tipp hurling great, in a master understatement, describes the Lynch affair as the most controversial the Council has had to deal with in the three years since '95.

"While it pains me to have to refer to this most distressing episode for the council, it is very important that a few salient facts be put on record in my report.

"The council has exercised great dignity and restraint at the time, in order not to prejudice the case in any way and despite the unprecedented and unfounded allegations that were trotted out via Press and radio interviews concerning the council and the integrity of its officers and members."Nealon's comments come just two months after the Munster Council and Clare were asked to forgive and forget by the governing GAC.

Charges of bringing the game into disrepute against Loughnane never saw the light of day and in a statement, the Clare County Board said that the were prepared to drop the issue.

But Nealon's efforts to set the record straight from his side is bound to provoke a strong reaction from Clare.

They have long suspected Nealon of driving the Lynch issue on and of pushing Croke Park to deal with Loughnane over his comments on Clare FM.

Nealon makes reference to the infamous radio interview when he said: "The council is not an insensitive body, as so described on Clare FM and has no hidden agenda against Clare or any county.

"But it must be understood that there can be no ambiguity as regards serious acts of misbehaviour on the field of play."

Nealon is at pains to stress that the Munster GAC dealt with Lynch in the same way as they have dealt with others in the past. But Loughnane and Clare are adamant the suspension was unfair because there was no reference to the incident involving Lynch in the opening minutes of the Waterford replay or video evidence which indicts him.

He is scathing in his criticism of the "gross misbehaviour in the first five minutes of the game."

He writes: "The Munster final replay is best remembered for all the wrong reasons, the ugly, disgusting scenes in the first five minutes of the game."

"It caused shock waves of revulsion among all decent hurling followers and sullied our great game."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 23, 1999
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