Destination Donegal for Sligo’s straight-talking man in black

One of Sligo’s best known referees and a former Aodh Ruadh manager has hung up his whistle in disgust at a number of county board decisions that have allegedly made “dirt” of the man in the middle.

One of Sligo’s best known referees and a former Aodh Ruadh manager has hung up his whistle in disgust at a number of county board decisions that have allegedly made “dirt” of the man in the middle.

St Molaise Gaels whistler Eugene MacHale has transferred to Donegal where he will be joined by fellow clubman Sean Rooney this season.

The Cliffoney man, a native of Knockmore, who is a very active retired garda, said he was looking forward to ending his refereeing career in Tir Chonail where he is pretty well known in the south of the county.

He was a member of the Mayo senior panel for many years and was a regular corner forward in the 1980s.

“I put in my intercounty application and it has been approved by Croke Park and Donegal.

“I know this is pretty unusual but I am looking forward to refereeing in Donegal and I know it reasonably well from my time managing Aodh Ruadh.

The unprecedented development comes after MacHale’s disgust at the Sligo Hearings Committee’s decision to reduce bans recommended by Competitions Control Committee and the failure to appoint him to referee Championship matches.

He added that he was told by a county board source that he would not be appointed to referee a game involving two certain clubs in the Sligo senior championship.

Yet he was bizarrely appointed stand-by referee on four occasions

And an angry MacHale, who has been a referee for eight years, said that those on the Hearings’ Committee who did not have the decency to resign over the rescinding of the red card awarded to St Mary’s star Mark Breheny should have been removed.

“They got it wrong and the whole country knew they got it wrong but nothing was done.

“The county board admitted that they got it wrong but nothing was done about it.

“What kind of a signal is that sending out to our youth?

“That’s the kind of denial that went on in the church and in politics for years.

He added that referees in Sligo were treated like mushrooms.

“We are kept in the dark and fed plenty of crap.

“I am not turning my back on the GAA.

“I know I have many faults as a referee but I always did my best after playing for a lifetime . . . some people said I played too long.

“I took up refereeing to put something back but you can only take so much but the Hearings Committee over the past few years have been a complete joke.

In 2009 the CCC of Sligo county board recommended a 48 weeks ban after MacHale was struck by Coolaney/Mullinabreena player Raymond Gallagher.

That was subsequently reduced to twelve weeks on appeal to the Hearings Committee.

And in December last year, Curry referee Malachy Maher was banned for six months for verbally abusing MacHale in the U-20 county final between Curry and St John’s.

That ban was reduced to two months on appeal.

“Both bodies can’t be right.

“Either the CCC got it wrong or the Hearings’ Committee were completely wrong.

“In 2011 three 48 week suspensions were reduced on appeal to 12 weeks.

“And in 2009 I had to read in the newspaper that the other 48 week ban was reduced to 12 weeks in my own case.

But MacHale feels the Hearings Committee decision after the Curry match was the final straw.

“From the start of the match until the end I was abused by a fellow referee.

“That was very hurtful but it was even more hurtful that he did not see fit to apologise.

“It is hard to admit when you’re wrong and it takes a good man to apologise.

“We are all only human and all make mistakes.

“The time for being silent is over.

“Those who stay silent on wrong-doing are just as guilty as the perpetrators

“Well I am taking a stand as I am sick of all this denial and I am doing this because I care about the GAA. and I am sick of being treated like dirt.

On a happier note he said he was looking forward to fresh surroundings in Tir Chonail.

“I have been in touch with some of your officials who have been pretty helpful.

“At my age of 54 I know there will be only a few years left.

“But one thing I always prided myself on and that was fitness.

“I am training away all the time so its Donegal here I come.”

At a time when most referees are retiring in their late 40s it is refreshing to see a man who is not prepared to hang up his whistle just yet.

And those who know the straight-talking ex-Aodh Ruadh boss also know that he is never afraid of a challenge and never afraid to call a spade . . . just that!