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Irish FA risk losing face after Cup fracas

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Joel Taggart | 16:13 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

When I looked at the photographs from the Irish Cup tie between Newry City and Larne, I was shocked, stunned and horrified by many of the images of violence that resulted in referee Raymond Crangle deciding to abandon the game.

Unfortunately, the people who should have been looking at the photographs weren't able to. The Irish Football Association disciplinary committee did not agree to the admission of photographic evidence as they reached their decisions on the sanctions to take against certain individuals involved.

You couldn't make it up. It's 2010 and photographs aren't used in making a decision of this magnitude.

It begs the question that if video footage of the incident had been available, would they have been permitted to use it? I think back to the infamous 'leg of lamb' at Ballymena when Tommy Wright and Paul Kirk were accused of throwing punches after a game between Ballymena United and Lisburn Distillery.

The incident is caught on camera
The incident was captured on camera

Video evidence was available to show that neither manager had indeed thrown a punch, but the disciplinary committee refused to view it while making their decision.

Yet again it appears that football here is stuck in the dark ages. Had the photographic evidence been used then perhaps they may have come up with an appropriate punishment.

I understand why those involved in the decision making process are reluctant to comment with possible appeals pending, but you really do wonder why they have been so soft in dealing with an incident that saw Irish league football viewed in the worst possible light.

In a previous blog just after the game, I said that "on the basis of what my colleagues who were there told me, and the photographs that were taken during the violent exchanges, it is clear that a number of players involved do not deserve to be anywhere near an Irish Cup final. I sincerely hope that those found guilty by the footballing authorities are not given the chance, for this season at least".

Obviously those on the IFA disciplinary committee don't share that view. In fact, should the authorities order the game to be replayed, as they could do, three of the players who received a ban could probably play in the tie.

By the time it's organised, the three players (Robert White, Brian Neeson and Cullen Feeney) will probably have served their two-match suspensions. How can two matches be a reasonable punishment for some of the scenes that we witnessed, especially as a straight red card can carry a three-match ban.

As for Anthony Lagan, the Larne player who appeared to be kicking Newry's Cullen Feeney in the head in one of the most used photographs of the game, he could've been banned for up to two years, but the IFA disciplinary committee suspended him for three and a half months.

It makes you wonder what it is that you actually have to do in an Irish league game to earn that two-year ban.

In my opinion, the punishments were inadequate. The opportunity to draw a line in the sand and take firm and decisive action has been missed and the credibility of the IFA has taken another hit.

Why did they not take stronger action against the players? Why did they refuse to view photographs of the scenes? Why did they not charge the players involved with bringing the game into disrepute? Why fine two clubs that don't have any money - the people who will have to pay up are not those on the pitch throwing punches. The wrong people surely are being punished by a fine.

As for the future participation of the clubs in the competition, that will be down to a three-man IFA commission set up to deal exclusively with the incident. Whether they will have the power to throw teams out of the Cup is not clear.

But if not, the credibility of the IFA in terms of its ability to deal with incidents just as these will hit an all time low.

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