Just a couple of days ago Clare footballer Gordon Kelly sat in the stands and watched his side play Roscommon in the Allianz League.

During that game it dawned on the defender that he may never represent his county in a league game again.

Last month the 34-year-old was handed a 12-week ban for allegedly squirting water at an umpire after Clare’s drawn game with Tipperary but Kelly is adamant that’s not how the incident played out.

"When the final whistle blew I was up around their 45 as we had been in an attacking position at the time," Kelly told RTÉ Sport.

"We were in a great position to score and most of us were surprised when the referee blew the whistle and a few players went to remonstrate with him.

"I went in to settle things down and that was part of our appeal to the Hearings Committee to show that I wasn’t the aggressor and that I was trying to calm the situation.

"I proceeded to shake hands with the Tipperary players and at that stage I was making my way towards the north end of the pitch. I saw a Clare player on my right hand side and I turned to chat to him.

Kelly is on right of image at the end of the match as he is handed water bottle

"I had just been given a water bottle a few seconds before that so I cleared the bottle as I always would; I didn’t give it much thought.

"To my recollection the water landed between the path of where the umpire was walking into and the other Clare player was walking into.

"The umpire gave me a quick glance at that stage and I realised that the water had gone in the direction of him and the player.

Umpire enters the picture seconds later

"So I apologised the umpire and said there was nothing intentional there, took a swig of the water bottle and turned to walk away.

"At that point another Clare player came past and he started to remonstrate with the umpire, I just pulled him away and we proceeded to our warm down."

One of Kelly's team-mates approaches an umpire but Kelly pulls him away

Kelly didn’t think any more about the incident and when manager Colm Collins called him the following evening to tell him he had been cited in the referee’s report he didn’t know what he was supposed to have done. 

The defender had to get the report to find out what the issue was and was then surprised at what he’d been cited for as it seemed so innocuous at the time.

Kelly looked at the video of the incident and felt it was clear from the footage that there was no intent to squirt water at the umpire.

The veteran player firmly believed that the video evidence of the incident, along with his impressive disciplinary record and the footage of him calming down the full-time altercation between the players and the referee would have been enough for him to contest any ban at the Hearings Committee.

"Throughout my inter-county career of 13 years and my senior club career of 18 years I have never been cited for remonstrating with a referee or any match officials.

"We explained this and we showed the video of me calming down the situation at the end of the game and also footage of the incident.

"But they came to the decision that the referee's report was correct so after that we appealed it to the Appeals Committee.

"Effectively I’ve been given a ten-game ban for this"

"We had no joy there either and I was given a 12-week ban."

The length of suspension has had a big effect on the veteran player as he knows that his time lining out for his county will come to an end sooner rather than later.

He will turn 35 this summer so realistically he might not play league football again. On top of that he will miss several vital club games.

"Effectively I’ve been given a ten-game ban for this, I’m missing out on six League games with the club which is very disappointing as well.

"As it is I feel inter county players aren’t with their clubs enough and this doesn’t help either.

"It’s very frustrating; I had been training hard for the last few months.

"We have a lot of young lads on the team and I’m very cognisant of helping them find their feet and set a good example for them and that’s hard when I feel I should be down there helping my team-mates.

Kelly and Clare may yet take their case to the DRA

"As well as getting a ban from football I think it’s damaging to my reputation, I had been asked to go in and help out the Clare minors but after this happened I decided that I’m not in a position to do that until this has been cleared up.

"Up until now I really thought the suspension would be lifted, so now that it seems it won’t and I will have to watch the club and county games from the stand, the mental aspect of that is starting to kick in."

In the aftermath of the suspension, Clare football manager Colm Collins came out strongly in support of Kelly and is outraged by the length of the ban.

"All he did was clean out the water bottle before he drank it, like every player in the country does,"said Collins.

"The umpire says he hit him which Gordon denies and he got three months for it.

"By all means protect the officials, but let there be something to protect them from, if you are going to suspend a player for that long."  

Kelly concedes that referee and umpires have yet to see the video evidence and hopes that if they decide to take the case to the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) they will look at it.

With so much a stake for the Clare man it’s a path worth exploring.