ROY O’DONOVAN will miss 10 matches next season after his grand final challenge on Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas was labelled “possibly the most dangerous play ever made in the A-League”.
The Newcastle striker will sit out a third of the 2018-19 campaign after Football Federation Australia's disciplinary-and-ethics committee took a hard-line stance over what they labelled his “flying kick” in the 93rd minute of the Jets’ 1-0 loss in the title decider on May 6.
The sanction is the second-longest in the competition’s history, behind only the nine months Danny Vukovic copped for striking a referee when playing for Central Coast against the Jets in the 2008 grand final.
“The flying kick used by the player, which led to his red card, is the most dangerous play which has ever come before the committee,” DEC chairmain John Marshall SC stated in his findings.
“It is possibly the most dangerous play ever made in the A-League. Although [thankfully and luckily] it did not result in a serious injury, it was a more dangerous play than the one of Kevin Muscat, which was sanctioned with an eight-match suspension.”
The Jets indicated in a statement that they would appeal against the severity of O’Donovan’s suspension.
“The Newcastle Jets are extremely disappointed with the outcome of this hearing and will immediately lodge an appeal on O’Donovan’s behalf,” the statement said.
O’Donovan was shown a straight red card and charged with serious foul play after his studs caught Thomas flush on the jaw. During Tuesday's hearing, O'Donovan's representatives conceded his head-high lunge was "reckless".
But they argued he had made a genuine play for the ball as part of a desperate attempt to equalise in the final seconds.
O’Donovan gave evidence via a video hook-up from Ireland, and argued that 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.
O'Donovan also maintained that he had "never set out to hurt anybody in my career" and had apologised to Thomas after the match.
However, in issuing the suspension the DEC, which spent three days deliberating, found that O’Donovan showed a “disregard for the danger” that his action posed to the keeper.
“The player used excessive force and brutality,” Marshall stated.
“The action of the player involved a flying kick of the kind seen in a martial arts contest, not on a football field. Whilst accidents can happen in sport and injuries can occur in football, it is the view of the committee that no goalkeeper [or any other player] should be exposed to a flying kick of that kind.
“The action of the player was extremely reckless and viewed objectively showed no regard to the potentially horrendous consequences for the goalkeeper.”
The DEC also noted that the previous three red cards O’Donovan had received – including eight games for a headbutt – were for contact with the head of an opposing player.
O’Donovan’s suspension will start with the Jets’ round-of-32 FFA Cup match.