Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke was as mystified as the many Armagh fans surprised to see no Ciaran McKeever for the second half of yesterday’s National League defeat to Laois.
McKeever was dismissed before the throw-in for the second half of the Division One clash in Portlaoise as a result of an alleged altercation in the tunnel at half-time that was spotted by an assistant to referee Michael Duffy.
The red card caused consternation from the player himself as well as the Armagh fans present, who had little or no idea why one of their most influential players was being sent to the line in the first place.
McKeever’s loss proved critical as the Orchard County fell to a five-point defeat, their third on the trot, and are now staring relegation from the top flight square in the face.
Commenting on McKeever’s dismissal, Paddy O’Rourke told the Irish Examiner: "To lose the man at half-time was an incredibly bizarre decision.
"We honestly don’t know why we lost him, he doesn’t know why. He said nothing happened in the tunnel. Why we lost him I don’t know."
While O’Rourke painted McKeever as whiter than white and expressed bafflement at his dismissal, Laois manger Justin McNulty, an Armagh native and former teammate of McKeever’s presented an entirely contrasting version of events.
"There was an incident at half-time which the linesman happened to witness which Ciarán was sent off for," McNulty said.
"Ciarán will know when you do that sort of thing, you have to pay the consequences.
"It was a striking action in the tunnel which the linesman witnessed right next to him, so you pay the consequences for that."
The depressing thing for Armagh and McKeever is that he may face further consequences once the incident is reviewed, which is the last thing O'Rourke needs given the plight of his side at the moment.