Jets striker Roy O’Donovan throws himself at mercy of appeal committee

JETS striker Roy O’Donovan will on Tuesday night throw himself at the mercy of an independent appeal committee which could in turn increase his ban beyond 10 matches.

The Irishman will head to Football Federation Australia’s offices in Darlinghurst with barrister Simon Philips as his legal representative for the 5.30pm hearing.

O’Donovan was given a 10-match suspension, the second longest in A-League history, by an independent disciplinary and ethics committee for his 93rd-minute high foot to the head of Melbourne Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas in Newcastle’s 1-0 grand final loss on May 5 at McDonald Jones Stadium.

He pleaded guilty to serious foul play and was given the suspension on May 18. Committee chairman John Marshall SC said the “flying kick” was “the most dangerous play which has ever come before the committee” and “is possibly the most dangerous play ever made in the A-League”.

Given his plea, O’Donovan is challenging only the severity of the penalty. The Herald was told the appeal is not a reconsideration of the original evidence, but a test of the decision, meaning no new evidence can be introduced. The three-person panel, usually chaired by a Queen’s Counsel and including a former player, can reduce or increase the penalty.

Professional Footballers Australia is assisting O’Donovan with his appeal. PFA chief John Didulica said it was “impossible to comment on the specifics of the defence given the disciplinary rules in place”.

“However, in any disciplinary forum, it is important to ensure that the person charged is given an opportunity to present a fair defence,” Didulica said.

“Particularly in this situation where a significant sanction can potentially impact on someone’s livelihood. 

“They are entitled to test the strength of the case against them and the penalty imposed.”

When handing down the suspension, Marshall said O’Donovan’s act was “a more dangerous play than the one of Kevin Muscat, which was sanctioned with an eight-match suspension”. Muscat was given that ban in 2011 for a tackle on Adrian Zahra which resulted in a career-ending injury.

At the original hearing, O'Donovan's representatives conceded his head-high lunge was "reckless" but they argued he made a genuine play for the ball in a desperate attempt to equalise in the final seconds.

O’Donovan said his vision was “blurred” after an elbow to the head from Besart Berisha moments earlier and  that he was rendered "completely blind" when the ball passed in front of floodlights.

The panel, though, said O’Donovan showed a “disregard for the danger” his action posed and he “used excessive force and brutality”.

It also noted that the previous three red cards O’Donovan had received were for contact with the head of an opposing player.

His suspension will start when the Jets take on Gold Coast Knights in their FFA Cup round of 32 match at Cbus Super Stadium in Robina on August 7.

The length of his ban is second only to the nine months Danny Vukovic received for striking a referee in the 2008 grand final.

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