Hoey sets his sights on new career as ref after hanging up Louth boots
Aaron Hoey has confirmed his retirement from inter-county football and signalled his intention to pursue a career in refereeing.
Hoey was the second-longest serving footballer in the 2012 championship having started his county career with Louth in 1997.
Only Sligo's Eamonn O'Hara has featured in more campaigns after his 1994 Connacht championship debut.
O'Hara's own future is very much shrouded in doubt and if he, in turn, calls it a day, Kildare's Dermot Earley will be out on his own with a 1997 championship start.
Versatile 35-year-old Hoey was not part of a panel named by new manager Aidan O'Rourke ahead of the league and admitted it was getting too hard to continue on.
He added he would now like to mix coaching at club level with a career as an inter-county referee. Very few, if any, modern county footballers have pursued the path of refereeing and fewer again made it as inter-county referees.
It was a recommendation in the recent first part of the Football Review Committee paper that more retired inter-county footballers be encouraged to pursue refereeing.
"It's something I've already started at juvenile level and I'd hope to continue as far as I can," he said.
"I'm currently training my home club St Bride's, helping out David Reilly (another former Louth player) when he is with the Louth U-21s, but I've taken a refereeing course and when I'm finished playing, I'd hope to concentrate more on it," he said.
"I can't think of many former inter-county players of recent times who have gone down that road which is a pity. Many current refs have been on the periphery and I've always felt greater involvement in the playing of the game at a higher level could bring better refereeing standards," he said.
Hoey and his Louth colleagues were the victims of one of the biggest refereeing controversies of recent times when Martin Sludden allowed a Joe Sheridan goal that should have been disallowed at the end of the 2010 Leinster final, denying Louth a first provincial title in 53 years.
"That still comes up. I was golfing in Portugal last year and it was the main topic of conversation. It still won't go away. Obviously, it was the low point of my career. I was right beside where it happened."
Hoey did acknowledge, though, that reaching a first final in 50 years was the highlight. "To reach a final obviously stands out. But I was happy to have played Railway Cup football for Leinster. That's a great competition that I wouldn't like to see killed off."
Another Louth veteran JP Rooney is to remained on, despite having a knee operation over the closed season.
Rising star Ciaran Byrne, who is understood to be AFL bound, has not been included in the 36-man squad.
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.