Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has defended Patrick McBrearty and lashed out at GAA President Liam O’Neill in the latest chapter of the Bitegate saga.
McBrearty was allegedly bitten by a Dublin player in a recent NFL game but failed to give evidence at a hearing into the affair, and the player was cleared of any wrong doing due to a lack of evidence.
O’Neill has expressed his disappointment with the case and claimed that it had left people who acted in good faith with an outcome that wasn’t satisfactory.
But McGuinness responded in an interview with RTE when he said, “Patrick is the victim in this situation. I don’t think he should have been dragged through the media for a week or 10 days, having been the victim.
“The protocol from our own point of view, we reported it to the referee at halftime actually, and we reported it to the referee after the game.
“We followed the procedures then, we wanted him to go to the hearing, I wanted him to go to the hearing, and the county board wanted him to go to the hearing, but Patrick didn’t want to go to the hearing.
“I suppose the president of the association has come out and made comments on it, but as you know he’s a schoolteacher himself, and he should understand, I feel, that Patrick is a very young boy, he’s only turned 19.
“He didn’t want to go to Dublin, and he didn’t want to go into a room and point the finger at somebody. But he outlined his own position and he outlined what happened. And what he outlined was strong enough for the CCCC to ban the player in the first situation.
“And we gave all the information we had, and that information was fairly emphatic.”
McGuinness was also critical of the GAA’s disciplinary body, the CCCC.
“I don’t believe it was up to us to make the case for the CCCC, it was up to the CCCC to make the case themselves, based on the information,” McGuinness said.
“And Patrick gave a statement, and the photographs went through to Croke Park, and the county board and everybody involved with Donegal cooperated fully with that.
“And if a young fella of 19 years of age doesn’t want to go to a hearing, he doesn’t have to go to a hearing, and that’s his own choice, it was his own decision. And I would stand by him on that.
“There’s an apportion of blame there, which I don’t like. I don’t like the apportion of the blame. Patrick is without blame in this situation.
“He was bit, and was a victim of that bite. To point a finger and say that it was Patrick’s fault on the back of that -- I think it’s wrong.
“I didn’t come out and say anything about it because we’d lost the match, and I think if you talk after you lose matches it’s sour grapes.
“But that was our situation, and a lot of people have said it was handled wrong. But that’s the facts of the matter.
“I think people should back off Patrick now and let him get on with his football. As I said, he’s a very young boy and he’s a very quiet lad.
“You can’t push people into situations and you have to respect their own opinions at the end of the day and it didn’t happen in this situation, and on top of that the finger was pointed at him.
“Hopefully now he can re-focus on his football and focus on Tyrone, because he is a very good talent.”
GAA director general Paraic Duffy responded by McGuinness’s comments by criticizing Donegal’s handling of the affair.
“It is unacceptable that a player did suffer a bite and that no one was held to account, and I think everyone has to look at the part they played in that,” he said.
“In terms of our processes I believe they were fair, they were robust and I think we could not have done any more. The case collapsed because of lack of evidence and that’s the reality of it.
“The CCCC tried to deal with it as best they could. They laid the charge down. But short of someone admitting it and owning up to it, the only other way of producing an outcome was that the player would attend a hearing and say, ‘I was bitten by...’. He chose not to do that, and that’s the player’s right to do that.
“From the GAA’s point of view, I accept that it has been damaging. It has damaged the reputation of the association that a player suffered a bite and nobody was held to account. But it certainly was not the fault of the procedures.”