Gracefield duo Conor Storey and Jason Slattery try to close down Ballycumber’s Adrian Kelly during last Saturday’s Senior 'B' FC quarter-final. Photo: Ger Rogers

Gracefield win DRA appeal to throw championship into doubt

This year's Offaly Senior 'B' Football Championship could be thrown into disarray, after Gracefield won their appeal to the Disputes Resolution Authority over the way the knockout stages of the competition were decided.

Three teams - Gracefield, Clonbullogue and Ballycommon - finished joint top of Group 2 of the Senior ‘B’ FC on four points. Gracefield believed they had finished top on scoring difference and would therefore go straight into the semi-finals. Indeed, Offaly GAA briefly circulated on social media that Gracefield had qualified for the semi-finals before removing the post.

However, the belief that Gracefield had topped their group was based on the old rule whereby overall scoring difference would decide placings when more than two teams are level on points. The new rule introduced at GAA Congress ordains that the league points and then scoring difference accumulated in the games involving the tied teams decides the issue.

Gracefield lodged an appeal with the Leinster Council, arguing that Offaly GAA regulations had not been changed to comply with the new scoring difference rule. The club lost their case and then they lodged a further appeal to the DRA and tried to get last weekend’s quarter-finals postponed.

The DRA did not grant their hopes of getting the quarter-finals postponed, but the body ruled that the club was entitled to a full hearing on the matter.

When Gracefield defeated Ballycumber in their quarter-final last Saturday, it appeared to draw a line under the affair as it meant they had qualified for the semi-finals in any case.

To the surprise of many observers, however, Gracefield pursued the matter further and the DRA has found in their favour.

The full implications of the ruling remain to be seen but the semi-finals (scheduled for September 9/10) may have to be postponed and a new quarter-final between Clonbullogue and Ballycumber may have to be played. Whether Ballycumber, having lost their quarter-final, would be interested in playing such a potential fixture is open to question.

As things stand, Gracefield are set to face Clonbullogue in one semi-final with neighbours Cappincur and Ballycommon meeting in the other.

The decision of Gracefield to take the matter to a full hearing of the DRA is likely to meet with criticism from other clubs, but the whole episode is an embarrassing one for Offaly GAA.

Former Offaly GAA chairman Tommy Byrne is the current chairman of Gracefield GAA.