Hughes: time to make a call on thorny umpire issue

All-Ireland SFC Round 4
Sligo v Down, tonight 7pm (Kingspan Breffni Park)

DANNY HUGHES has called on the GAA to “take responsibility” and not allow a repeat of the situation where the Meath County Board had to decide whether or not the controversial Leinster final would be replayed.

Such a scenario should be avoided, according to the Down attacker, who also argues that umpires should have a greater role in games and suggests that referees be appointed to those positions, rather than allowing the match official to chose his own men.

“The wider issue the GAA need to look at is that this should not have come down to the Meath County Board or the players to make that decision.

“There has to be an avenue where the GAA take responsibility for these issues, and offer replays if they deem it feasible.

“I don’t know about video technology, but the two guys standing at the post should have a say.

“I know referees pick their own umpires so maybe that’s something they should look at.

“I know you need a trusted lieutenant for big issues, but maybe the umpires should be impartial, or have referees doing it, because not every referee in the country will be tied up on Sundays.”

Hughes’s selection for Down’s SFC round 4 qualifier against Sligo at Kingspan Breffni Park tonight is a huge boost to the Mourne men’s prospects of advancing, and a remarkable testament to the recovery powers of the Saval speedster.

He suffered a metatarsal stress fracture in his left foot during the defeat of Longford in round 2 which seemed certain to rule him out for the rest of the season.

With Down struggling against Offaly at Tullamore last weekend though, he was sprung from the bench by James McCartan to devastating effect as the Ulster men eventually shrugged off the hosts’ gritty challenge.

“All the great players have had them,” he grins. “Wayne Rooney, (David) Beckham had one as well. I wanted to get myself one.

“It actually happened some time during the Longford match. I’m not sure how. I knew it was sore at half-time, but it’s not something I wanted to bring up, I just wanted to get through it.”

That courage, combined with searing pace, workrate and eye for a score, explains why McCartan wants him around.

Sligo are a wounded animal after failing to collect a Connacht title last Sunday but they won’t fear Down, having beaten them by 1-7 to 0-4 in the 2006 qualifiers.

“It was a real low point for myself and some of the senior players now. We were well and truly beaten by a better team on the day. We had no complaints. We weren’t good enough.”

Sligo like to attack from all over the pitch but Down seem better prepared for that type of challenge now than in the past.

“A lot of people say our Achilles heel has been our defence over the last few years. But when you look at our statistics, our defence was one of the best in the second division this year.

“We are defending as a team all over the field these days, and the days of us being on a parallel with Newcastle under Kevin Keegan are hopefully gone.

“But hopefully we can still bring a wee bit of traditional Down football to it and attack.”


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