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15th Oct 2023

“Embarrassing for the county board and for the Down football public” – controversy over referee for Kilcoo-Burren

Niall McIntyre

Down referee Brian Higgins is now set to referee the game.

The Down senior football final between Kilcoo and Burren was awash with controversy before a ball was even kicked on Sunday after a dispute surrounding referees.

The Kilcoo club caused the stir by submitting an appeal to the county hearings committee against the appointment of Paul Faloon as referee.

The appeal was initially rejected but with Faloon having reportedly decided to step aside himself on the back of the appeal from Kilcoo, there was speculation that the game would be put back a week.

In the mean-time, the Irish News reported that David Gough, referee of this year’s All-Ireland senior football final, was set to be drafted in to take charge of the game. But that wasn’t the case.

Despite the drama, the game threw in at 2.15 in Páirc Esler in Newry, with Kilcoo aiming to win their fifth county title in a row.

Burren were the last Down side other than Kilcoo to win the title, having won the 2018 decider against the Magpies.

On TG4 GAA BEO, led by presenter Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, they discussed the controversy, with former Clare player Gary Brennan describing it as very strange.

“It’s very strange. I’ve never heard of an appeal going in before a game to change the referee.”

“It has to be very strange for Brian Higgins, because it is a big thing to referee a county final.”

Former Tyrone player Mark Harte, meanwhile, described it as a ‘big pity.’

“It’s a big pity. Embarrassing for the county board and for the Down football public. It’s not a good look,” he said.

“This should be a proud day for Paul. It’s a big pity.”

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