NEWCASTLE Jets striker Roy O’Donovan faces an anxious wait after a disciplinary tribunal deferred judgement on what sanction the Irishman will receive for his ugly challenge on Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas in the A-League grand final.
After a marathon hearing in Sydney on Tuesday night, which included evidence from O’Donovan via a video hook-up from Ireland, where he is on holidays, Football Federation Australia’s disciplinary and ethics committee (DEC) said they needed more time to deliberate.
“This is a potentially lengthy sentence and we just need to be clear on our reasoning,” said committee chairman John Marshall SC.
O’Donovan was given a red card in the 93rd minute of the Jets’ heart-breaking 1-0 loss to the Victory at McDonald Jones Stadium on May 5. Chasing a Dimi Petratos free-kick, the striker launched himself feet first and collected Thomas flush in the face.
In giving evidence, O’Donovan claimed he'd originally intended to go for a header before the ball skewed slightly left.
"I had to make a split-second decision to go with my foot in the hope that if I got a touch the reward was massive - we had a chance to win the grand final," O'Donovan said. "As soon as I left the ground there was no way to stop."
The 32-year-old also argued his vision was blurred after copping a stray elbow from Besart Berisha moments earlier, and was soon rendered "completely blind" when the ball passed in front of the stadium floodlights and could only hope his trajectory and timing was right.
"I feel if my eye was perfect my timing would have been a bit better," O'Donovan said.
"As a striker you have a responsibility to attack the ball ... unfortunately this time I hit the goalkeeper in the face which I'm devastated about. I have never set out to hurt anybody in my career, nor will I."
During the hearing O'Donovan's counsel Simon Philips conceded his head-high lunge into Thomas' face was "careless" and "reckless" but argued he'd made a genuine play for the ball in a desperate attempt to equalise in the game's final seconds.
But after viewing video footage and accessing 97 still photographs the disciplinary committee wasn't buying it, contending the "Hail Mary attempt" was always likely to endanger Thomas as he rushed out for the ball.
FFA's counsel Ivan Griscti also observed "it does appear that the player is looking at the goalkeeper".
Philips likened O'Donovan's challenge to that of Sadio Mane on Manchester City gloveman Ederson last September, for which the Liverpool attacker received a three-match suspension.
He used the "not dissimilar" example to campaign for a maximum four-match ban.
However, O'Donovan is already up for more than four games by virtue of the mach review panel's (MRP) referral as a more serious offence.
The MRP categorised the incident as "serious foul play" when challenging for the ball and referred it to the independent DEC to determine what additional sanction above the mandatory one-match should be applied.
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna, who also made a representation, said the three-man panel indicated they would have an outcome by the end of the week.
“It’s a waiting game now,” McKinna said. “We have no idea how it will go.”
O’Donovan was photographed after the game apologising to the keeper.
The pair have known each other for 10 years and were once teammates at English lower-division club Coventry.
Whatever ban O’Donovan receives can be served in the FFA Cup as well as the A-League.