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16th Oct 2023

Down county board vow to ensure referee controversy ‘never happens again’

Niall McIntyre

Down GAA have described Kilcoo’s appeals against referee Paul Faloon on the grounds of perceived bias as ‘baseless.’

The county board issued a statement on Monday afternoon on the back of the controversy that surrounded the build-up to their senior football final which took place on Sunday.

Kilcoo won the game by 2-12 to Burren’s 0-9 to take their 10th county title in 11 years but the game was somewhat over-shadowed by a messy pre-amble.

Things became complicated when Kilcoo pursued an appeal against the appointment of referee Paul Faloon.

Down rejected this appeal, as did the DRA, (the GAA’s highest resolution body) subsequently on Saturday morning but ‘matters transpired’ according to the county board, which eventually led to the game being taken away from Faloon.

David Gough was then asked to referee the game, as Down felt it would be unfair to ask an internal referee to take charge, but he then withdrew. Down referee Brian Higgins (an ‘internal’ referee) eventually took on the game at late notice and it went ahead as planned.

Faloon took charge of Galway and Mayo’s All-Ireland senior football clash earlier this year.

You can read the full Down GAA statement below.

“Following yesterday’s county senior football championship final, Down GAA wish to address the episode relating to the appointment of the match referee.

“Early last week, Paul Faloon was confirmed as the referee for the fixture. As an intercounty championship match official of considerable standing, his was an appropriate appointment. We regard Paul as one of our best match officials, who has officiated at provincial and national level.

“An appeal against this appointment was then pursued by the Kilcoo club, on the grounds of perceived bias. We regarded this as entirely baseless and were determined to fight for the integrity of the referee and the appointment.

A hearing took place on Thursday evening last (heard by the Down Hearings Committee), and the appeal was rejected. Kilcoo then lodged a claim with the Disputes Resolution Authority in Croke Park (the GAA’s highest resolution body), requesting interim relief on the matter and proposing, as a possible remedy, postponement of the game for a week if the application were to be successful.

[caption id="attachment_278425" align="alignnone" width="1000"] 11 December 2022; Eugene Branagan of Kilcoo in action against Conor Convery of Glen during the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final match between Glen Watty Graham’s of Derry and Kilcoo of Down at the Athletics Grounds in Armagh. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

“The DRA claim was heard on Saturday morning and the case put forward by Kilcoo was rejected. This was an entirely satisfactory ruling as it allowed the referee appointment to stand, and we communicated it to Paul.

“We were steadfast in our support of the appointment of Paul Faloon. Not even the notion of postponement would deter us from the clear opinion that everyone should respect his appointment.

“However, in the course of Saturday late morning and afternoon, matters transpired that became increasingly difficult for us to resolve. We were left with the prospect that there may be no referee for the fixture, and as a result, had no option but to appoint an alternative official to referee the game.

“Having deemed it unfair in these circumstances to ask another internal referee to take charge of the fixture, we then asked David Gough and he accepted. At 11.30am on Sunday, David advised us that he would be withdrawing, and we respected his decision. Brian Higgins then accepted the appointment as referee.

“Whilst the final took place and we are very grateful to all of yesterday’s match officials, this was an extremely frustrating episode. As an Association, we are constantly hearing and stating about the need to respect our match officials.

“The appointment of Paul Faloon should have been respected and it is disappointing that this was challenged in the way that it was. There should be no right of appeal against the appointment of a referee. We will examine this episode and consider what needs to be put in place to ensure that this never happens again.”

In a statement on Sunday night, Faloon’s club Drumragh said that they were ‘disappointed’ in the turn of events that led to the game being taken away from their member.

“The committee and members of Drumgath GAC are extremely disappointed in the turn of events that led to our club referee, Paul Faloon, not officiating the Down GAA Morgan Fuels Senior Football Championship final today.

“We are very proud to have Paul represent our club on a national basis, he is one of the most highly regarded officials in the country and should be recognised and protected within our own county.”

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