Thursday 23 November 2017

Ulster 'cutting off nose' over soccer clash - Hughes

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Down attacker Danny Hughes has accused the Ulster Council of "cutting off their nose" with their position in relation to the timing of next week's provincial quarter-final between his county and Armagh.

Hughes, the current All Star right half-forward, admitted yesterday that he is at a loss to know why the time of his county's Ulster championship match on Saturday week has not been changed to avoid a clash with the Champions League final.

The fixture at the newly-named Morgan Athletics Grounds will go head-to-head with televised coverage of Manchester United v Barcelona at Wembley (7.45), and Hughes feel that it "doesn't make sense."

Last week the Leinster Council agreed to move the Offaly-Wexford game to 5.0 to allow spectators to see both games. But the Ulster Council have stressed that they have not received a request from either Down or Armagh and will not be deviating from the 7.0 throw-in time.

Hughes says he cannot see the economic sense in refusing a time change and fears the attendance will be down as a consequence.

"The Ulster Council should definitely have moved the game. I just can't understand why they did that (not switch the times). Why take money off the gate? Why take people away from the game when there's absolutely no need to?" he asked.

"Why not put it on at 3.0 or 5.0? The BBC have it and RTE are showing delayed highlights. Why not let people go to the game at 5.0 and go home or go to the bars. Economically speaking it just doesn't make sense."

The Ulster Council feel that a fixture arranged in October should not be changed at such a late date.

Hughes admitted he hasn't heard of many who will stay at home and watch the Champions League final in preference to travelling to Armagh, but he senses it will happen.

"You'll see that in the ground. You'll have your hard-core supporters but it probably won't be anything more than would go to a National League match. It's astonishing," he said. "We're living in the 21st century. I can't understand the thinking behind it.

"FIFA aren't going to move the match. We're a small organisation, we have to make the most of the population we have so that people will actually go to the games. They're cutting off their nose, they really are," said Hughes when asked if it was a case of pride in sticking to the original schedule.

"There are issues in that nothing has come from the Down or Armagh camps but is there a need to do that? Probably part of the problem is that they're so stuck in set rules."

Hughes believes that if the GAA can open up Croke Park to other sports, then the Ulster Council can bring the time of one of their showpiece matches forward as a convenience to supporters who also wish to see the Champions League game. He doesn't feel anything would be "conceded" by doing that.

"There was no problem conceding when it came to opening up the grounds to any major sports. They were bigger issues, far, far bigger issues... so changing the throw-in time, I don't see the big problem. Did they not learn anything from the World Cup clash in 2002?"


Hughes, one of the three nominees for Footballer of the Year in 2010, feels a majority of players would share his view, but adds that the time is irrelevant to them.

"As a player you get focused and you know what time it's on, but if they put it on earlier it wouldn't matter to us. We're focused on the game, but this is a distraction and a thing that people talk about, and you don't really need a distraction.

"You just want to get on and play a good game and be sure that it's as attractive to the neutral as possible. Let everybody see it."

Hughes believes players must be conscious that, while winning is their priority, providing entertainment is also important.

"We're competing with rugby, soccer, all the rest of it. Football is about enjoyment, football is about entertaining people, absolutely," he said.

"It's a results business and the number one is to get through games, no matter how you do it and get the win, but it's always nice being expansive and going forward and going to win a game and I suppose that's something that we done did last year.

"We lost an All-Ireland final but we always went to win games, and if we provided a wee bit of entertainment doing it that's great -- but it's a results business."

Irish Independent

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