Inverness defender Josh Meekings cleared for Scottish Cup final

Inverness Caledonian Thistle defender Josh Meekings can play in the Scottish Cup final after his retrospective one-game suspension was dismissed.

The Highlanders appealed against a Scottish FA ban after Meekings handled a goalbound Leigh Griffiths header in the 3-2 semi-final win over Celtic.

On Thursday, an independent judicial panel cleared the Englishman, 22, to face Falkirk in the 30 May showpiece.

A delighted Meekings said on Twitter: "Back to business now. Cannot wait."

SFA compliance officer Tony McGlennan had charged Meekings with breaking disciplinary rule 200 by "denying the opposing team an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball".

In his report, referee Steven McLean had explained he had sought the advice of Alan Muir - the official behind the goal - and was told by him that he thought the ball had struck the defender's head.

As the panel gathered to make their decision, Inverness manager John Hughes was critical of the SFA for bringing a case of hand ball to the judicial panel for the first time.

"I think the whole of Scottish football, or British football, know there is a real injustice here," he said.

Inverness defender Josh Meekings
Inverness think the SFA should not have taken action against Josh Meekings

"First and foremost, he shouldn't be up there in the first place.

"I am a little bit embarrassed. Scottish football is getting dragged through the mud a little bit and I think there's a little more to it than we're seeing.

"You can open up a whole can of worms and, even if it goes in our favour, I don't think we have heard the end of this.

"If this is what goes on in Scottish football, I don't know if I want to be part of it.

"I am really disillusioned with it, but the amount of phone calls and texts from people I respect in the game have probably rekindled my fight to make sure I'm not going to lie down and not going to buckle."

Hughes, who said the disciplinary procedure needed reform, claimed it was not the first time that Inverness have been treated unfairly.

"Going back to semi-final kick-off times, playing Hearts at Easter Road right in the middle of Edinburgh... I just think sometimes Inverness get treated with contempt and I just think this is the next version of that," he said.

Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron expressed his delight for Meekings.

"The result means that the club can now fully appreciate the achievement of reaching it's first-ever Scottish Cup final," he said.

Meekings' hand ball came at a time when Celtic were 1-0 ahead, but Inverness went on to win after extra-time.

Celtic, who had goalkeeper Craig Gordon sent off, wrote to the SFA to ask why Meekings was not dismissed and a penalty awarded.

Gary Warren, Meekings' regular central defensive partner, was already suspended for the final after picking up a second yellow card.