|Ulster SFC first round: Donegal v Antrim|
|Venue: MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey Date: Sunday, 21 May Throw-in: 16:00 BST Coverage: Full deferred on BBC TWO NI at 19:00; live commentary on Radio Ulster 1341 MW and BBC Sport website|
Antrim footballer Matthew Fitzpatrick has been hit with a 48-week ban after the GAA ruled he “deliberately misled” a recent disciplinary hearing.
Fitzpatrick is set to make a further appeal but looks certain to miss Sunday’s Ulster SFC game with Donegal.
The Central Hearings Committee ruled on Monday night that Fitzpatrick “gave deliberately false evidence.
Team joint-manager Frank Fitzsimons and selector Pat Hughes also both received warnings.
CHC produced new evidence
New video evidence of the incident in the Division Three Football League game against Armagh in March is understood to have been produced by the Central Hearings Committee and this led to Fitzpatrick being handed the massive ban, when his initial penalty had been only one match.
Having initially successfully appealed against the one-match suspension, Fitzpatrick’s ban was re-imposed and successfully appealed in quick succession before Croke Park ordered Monday’s further hearing.
“I know the young man. He’s a fellow club-man of my own. This is the third time he has been before a disciplinary committee over this issue,” said Antrim joint-manager Gearoid Adams before Monday night’s decision.
“I first met Matthew at the age of 16 when I was manager of St John’s and he told me that he about to play for Glentoran but instead he came back to me when he could easily have stuck with soccer.
“This may lead to one of our most talented players saying: ‘You know what. I’m either away to America or I’m not going to play football at all’.
“He’s a brilliant player but he’s a free spirit. If he was a dirty player, I wouldn’t be standing here defending him.”
Three weeks ago, Fitzpatrick’s Saffron team-mates released a strongly worded statement which alleged that the Antrim county board had identified the player to Croke Park.
According to his team-mates, the county’s management and two county officials were initially unable to identify the player from footage after being asked to do so by the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee.
The players alleged that the county board, however, then did identify Fitzpatrick which led to the original one-game suspension.
The Saffrons will already be without Conor Murray after he was handed a two-match ban following his red card in the game against Armagh.
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney was then banned for 12 weeks for an allegation verbal altercation with a linesman in the Athletic Grounds game.
Fitzpatrick is set to appeal against the massive ban to the GAA’s Central Appeals Committee.