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Refs have key roles in cutting out violence: Doherty

 

Tough talk: Paddy Doherty urges referees to give a lead in helping to stamp out violence on the field of play
Tough talk: Paddy Doherty urges referees to give a lead in helping to stamp out violence on the field of play
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Former Down All-Ireland winner Paddy Doherty is urging referees to take a much firmer line with players who engage in violent acts during matches.

Doherty, clearly dismayed by what he describes as the "mindless incident" which marred the recent All-County League Division One tie between Ballyholland Harps and RGU Downpatrick at Kilcoo, believes that a coherent approach is urgently needed to halt the current malaise sweeping the GAA.

Doherty, a stellar forward in the Down sides that won the All-Ireland title in 1960, 1961 and 1968, is convinced that referees can have a much bigger part to play in clamping down on those who stray outside the rules.

"I think it is a bit ironic that at a time when the proposed rule changes are very much a big talking point, the culture of violence is becoming more prevalent," stated Doherty.

"This is not good for the game or for the image of the Association. I honestly believe that any player who raises his hand in anger on the pitch should be sent off.

"I know that referees are required to make instant decisions, but from my viewpoint if a player shows intent to harm another then a sending-off is the only punishment."

Doherty was a spectator at Sunday's county final between Burren and Kilcoo which saw the St Mary's outfit end the Magpies' six-year term as county champions.

"It was a hard, tough Championship match but there wasn't a dirty stroke in it," pointed out Donnelly. "There was a lot at stake, players on both sides were under considerable pressure, yet it was a great game - why can't they all be like that?

"When you look back on recent weeks, violence flared in Derry, Tyrone and Down, and that's not a healthy situation by any means.

"It shows Ulster football in a bad light and that's not something any of us who have its best interests at heart want."

Doherty predicts that the proposed bans on Ballyholland and RGU Downpatrick from next year's Down Senior Championship will be appealed, as will any individual sanctions that could still be imposed.

"Obviously teams and players have a right to appeal any decisions so we have to wait and see what happens along the way," added Doherty.

In a year in which Down were relegated to Division Three of the Allianz League and failed to impress in either the Ulster or All-Ireland Championships, with manager Eamonn Burns subsequently stepping aside, the county has not had its sorrows to seek.

"Down is a proud county and it pains me to see things happen which should not have taken place. Hopefully what occurred in the Ballyholland v RGU Downpatrick match will prove nothing more than an isolated incident," said Doherty.

Meanwhile, plans have been finalised for a special banquet next month at which the Down 1968 All-Ireland-winning side will be honoured to mark the 50th anniversary of the team's success.

The team was captained by the late Joe Lennon and included many of Down's most iconic players, including the legendary duo of Doherty and the irrepressible Sean O'Neill.

While Doherty accrued a shoal of honours during his distinguished playing career, the All-Star awards scheme only came into being in the early Seventies.

"I was done by then," laughed Doherty.

Only recently he received a special presentation from the Gaelic Players' Association to mark his special services to the GAA.

"It was great to be honoured by the current players. I was playing well before they were born but I was nonetheless encouraged to be recognised by them," said Doherty.

"I would regard myself very much as yesterday's man but I was still chuffed to receive the honour."

Meanwhile, Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher has drafted in no fewer than 11 players to the squad for the 2019 campaign.

Gallagher and his selectors felt there was a need to freshen up the squad ahead of the new campaign and he has wasted no time in doing so.

However, Fermanagh will have to plan without Eamonn Maguire and Pat Cadden, who have followed Ryan McCluskey into retirement.

"We feel that the panel needs a wee bit of freshening up. We got the job last year and the likes of myself would have been out of touch with the Fermanagh club scene to an extent," pointed out Gallagher.

"We've seen these players over the course of the league and Championship on a number of different occasions and everybody is going to get an opportunity to train between now and mid-January.

"We want to see who of the existing panel is prepared to push on. Some fellas were there last year and got their opportunity at training and didn't get a lot of game time because they didn't do well enough in training."

Fermanagh reached this year's Ulster final in which they were beaten by Donegal, and Gallagher is hopeful that the team can make even further headway next year.

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