Thursday 18 January 2018

GAA switch official over fears appointment was too close for comfort

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

A leading referee has been taken out of one of the weekend's championship fixtures because he lives too close to one of the competing counties.

Longford's Derek Fahy was scheduled to take charge of the Wexford versus Westmeath Leinster football quarter-final at Wexford Park tomorrow evening.

But upon receipt of the fixture, a clearly annoyed Wexford immediately raised a question mark about his appointment and a change was subsequently made.

Fahy is from Ballymahon on the Longford/Westmeath border so Wexford, and subsequently the GAA, decided that it was too close for comfort.

Fahy will now take charge of the Louth/Carlow match in Portlaoise, while Armagh's Padraig Hughes will head south to Wexford tomorrow night.

The decision is in keeping with an apparent policy to keep the pressure off referees with more careful adherence to where they are appointed.

Tyrone's Martin Sludden was pencilled in to referee Cavan and Donegal in next weekend's Ulster last-eight tie but with the winners now playing the Red Hand in the provincial semi-final, Marty Duffy has been appointed instead.

Cavan's Joe McQuillan was due to take charge of Tyrone and Monaghan last weekend but because the Breffni men could be facing the winners (Tyrone), any potential clash of interest was removed by switching McQuillan to Croke Park.

The move will place future appointments under intense scrutiny by counties with all links potentially being explored.

Meanwhile, Wexford's local economy is set to cash in on the decision to keep the Leinster hurling championship semi-final between the Model County and Kilkenny at home tomorrow night.

The windfall justifies staging the game at Wexford Park instead of Croke Park, and could become a more common feature of provincial games in the future, Wexford County Board chairman Ger Doyle said.

Wexford Park will have more than 16,000 for the double bill that will represent the biggest ever crowd at the venue.

Tickets were selling fast last night in anticipation of the Leinster champions arriving in town, with seated tickets almost sold out.

Doyle stressed yesterday that entering home-and-away arrangements with other counties was a priority of his reign because of the value it provided to the local economy.

"This game would have been in Croke Park and of no benefit to Wexford," he said. "If it was in Croke Park there would be a lot less talk about it and no revenue for Wexford businesses.

"But the place has been buzzing with ticket sales and hotel bookings are also up significantly."

Wexford Park holds 23,000-24,000 and Doyle expects somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 for the two fixtures.

The Wexford/Westmeath tie is the curtain raiser to the main event.

Irish Independent

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