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Naomh Colmcille GAA club ban 'a disgrace'

Paul Dillon Image copyright Naomh Colmcille
Image caption Paul Dillon said the Donegal County Board should use "common sense"

A man with motor neurone disease has said a proposed eight-week ban for a GAA club that held a fundraiser in his honour is "a disgrace".

County Donegal club Naomh Colmcille hosted a charity soccer tournament to raise money for Paul Dillon, a former underage coach with the club.

The Donegal County Board has proposed punishing the club for hosting an "unauthorised tournament".

Mr Dillon said the board should use "common sense".

GAA rules state that all tournament games must be "sanctioned by the appropriate controlling authority". Clubs can face a €500 (£431) fine and eight-week suspension otherwise.

The Newtowncunningham club has lodged an appeal over the proposed ban.

Image caption Naomh Colmcille hosted a charity soccer tournament on one of its pitches

Mr Dillon told BBC Radio Foyle the "amazing support" his family had received following his diagnosis had been "overshadowed" by the county board's actions.

"I felt guilty about it at the start. The club has been punished over the head of raising money for me," he said.

"I think it's a disgrace to be honest. I hope common sense will prevail and the ban will be overturned."

'Think twice'

Mr Dillon said that €5,000 (£4,320) collected through the fundraiser had been used to help renovate his existing home to improve access.

"We used the money to make changes to our home to make life easier for me and to make it wheelchair accessible.

"I think if anyone from the county board had seen how I have to live day-to-day, they would have thought twice about sanctioning the club."

A spokesman from Naomh Colmcille said the club had no comment pending the outcome of the appeal.

The Donegal County Board confirmed the findings of an investigation had "recommended a suspension of eight weeks" for Naomh Colmcille for holding an "unauthorised tournament".

A statement said the club was not currently suspended and it would be "afforded due process" to appeal the proposed ban.

"Naomh Colmcille have the right to prove these findings incorrect or misapplied," it added.

'Exceptional circumstances'

The GAA was criticised last year when they initially refused an application to host a testimonial match for former Republic of Ireland socccer player Liam Miller at Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium in Cork.

The decision was reversed following discussions between the GAA and match organisers.

Image copyright SNS
Image caption Former Celtic and Man United player Liam Miller died of cancer in February 2018 aged 36

In February, the GAA National Congress voted to give the central council the power to authorise the use of GAA property for use for "activities other than those controlled by the association" but only in "exceptional circumstances".

The rule change only applies to county grounds and not club facilities.

A GAA spokesman confirmed that the matter was being dealt with by the Donegal County Board and the organisation had no comment while the case was ongoing.

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