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McGuinness 'fearful' of serious spinal injury and calls for greater player protection

‘Four concussions in three games – I imagine Munster or Leinster Rugby wouldn’t have that many.’

McGuinness leaves the tunnel in Carrick on Shannon alongside Mark McHugh.
McGuinness leaves the tunnel in Carrick on Shannon alongside Mark McHugh.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

DONEGAL BOSS JIM McGuinness says he is “fearful” that a Gaelic footballer could soon suffer a serious injury if a duty of care to players is not enforced.

Speaking in the wake of Donegal’s SFC qualifier win over Laois, a game in which he became incensed on the sidelines, McGuinness made particular reference to the injury suffered by Mark McHugh in last Sunday’s Ulster final defeat to Monaghan.

The half forward came away from a collision with Stephen Gollogly with a perforated eardrum, concussion and a what McGuinness called “a five centimetre hole” in his quad. Add McHugh to Declan Walsh (v Tyrone), Frank McGlynn and Ryan Bradley (both v Down) and McGuinness decided to voice his concern.

“Four concussions in three games,” McGuinness exclaimed to Donegal News. “I imagine Munster or Leinster Rugby wouldn’t have that many.

“I have never criticised a referee and I’m not criticising a referee now. What I am saying is that there is a duty of care to the players. I would be fearful that our players will end up on the receiving end of something very serious soon that will cost everybody a lot of pain. That’s not something I want to preside over. It’s not worth it if it goes to that point.”

He added: “We’re in a very dangerous position here. I fear that something is going to happen and my biggest fear is a spinal injury or a neck injury.

“We have to create a situation where we feel that it’s okay to put people out onto the pitch.”

Many will be quick to point out that the dethroned Ulster champions are far from shrinking violets themselves, but the Glasgow Celtic performance consultant insists there is a difference between a physical contest and the treatment he feels his players are being subjected to.

“We are not afraid of physicality. There was a lot of physicality out there [against Laois]. We can live with that. There is a difference between physicality and burst ear drums and serious leg injuries.

“That is where the danger element comes in. I played midfield for Donegal for years and, no matter how hard I shouldered anybody in my life, I never burst an eardrum, I never bloody knocked anybody concussed and I didn’t put a five-centimetre hole in anybody’s leg.”

Consequences

McGuinness also expressed dismay that the challenges were not being highlighted enough in the national media and particularly RTE’s The Sunday Game. With a repeat of the 2012 All Ireland final in store for next Sunday’s quarter final clash with Mayo, he knows now is the time to be raising his concerns towards referees.

“You don’t want to have a situation where there is going to be a serious injury. I feel we’re not far away from that happening,” he warns.

“There were a lot of instances out there [against Laois] where our players were trying to get up the field and they were being stopped. It’s going to happen and I hope that everyone involved can live with the consequences. I know that I won’t be.”

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Sean Farrell

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