Top referee David Gough. James Crombie/INPHO
Man in the Middle

All-Ireland final referee Gough opts out for 2020 due to social distancing concerns

‘As long as there is social distancing still in place,’ the Meathman is unavailable.

TOP GAELIC FOOTBALL referee David Gough has opted out of the 2020 GAA season amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meathman Gough, who refereed last year’s drawn All-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry, told The Irish Independent that he will not be available to take charge of games as long as social distancing remains in place.

Earlier this week, Gough, 37, informed county board officials in Meath that he won’t be available to take charge of club clashes, which are set to resume next month.

And he insists that the “same applies” for inter-county football, which is slated in for an October return.

“I spoke to the referees’ coordinator from the Meath county board this morning [Thursday] and updated him,” the Slane clubman told Donnchadh Boyle, in an interview published this morning.

As long as there is social distancing still in place I won’t be taking charge of club matches in Meath for the foreseeable future. It’s only two months since two metres seemed to be a life and death matter. If I go to town now I have to be two metres away from someone and wear a face mask at the same time which is HSE advice.

“So I don’t understand how I can safely be in a confined space with 30-plus people on a football field and be socially distant. Until that changes I won’t be coming back.”

Gough — who took the whistle for his first All-Ireland senior final last September — is accompanied by family members on his team of officials.

The decision to opt out was made on the back of their personal scenarios, he added.

“It’s not a decision I took lightly. I thought very hard about it,” Gough, who also encouraged clubs to fly the rainbow flag and support the LGBTQ+ inclusivity drive, said ahead of Pride weekend.

It’s based on my own personal circumstances and those of my umpiring team and I didn’t want to put them or myself (in harm’s way) based on our personal situations.

“So at the moment we decided it’s best not to return until social distancing isn’t an issue on a Gaelic football field.”

Last week, Gough’s fellow Meath whistler David Coldrick told RTÉ Radio 1′s Sunday Sport that several referees have serious concerns around the GAA’s accelerated return.

“That opt-in or opt-out clause applies for referees as much as players,” he said, noting that many had “very, very valid concerns” amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

The news of Gough’s decision comes after reports last night that Dublin ace Jack McCaffrey has stepped away from Dessie Farrell’s panel ahead of the rescheduled 2020 championship.

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