Jim McGuinness fears for players’ health and safety
“We are in a very dangerous position and I fear that something is going to happen”
Donegal’s manager Jim McGuinness and manager Justin McNulty of Laois (left of picture) and their management teams exchange words in the first half of their qualifer game in Carrick-on-Shannon. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The physicality of Gaelic football should not be confused with bursting an ear drum, repeated concussion, or a 5cm tear down the side of the leg. Just in case there was still some confusion.
Jim McGuinness believes some people still can’t tell the difference. If his Donegal team are to defend their All-Ireland football title – and there should be less confusion about that after next Sunday’s quarter final against Mayo, a rematch of last year’s final – then he’d rather do it without seeing any players carted off to hospital in the process.
It’s what happened to his star forward Mark McHugh after last weekend’s Ulster final defeat to Monaghan, and might well have happened again in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday evening had McGuinness not intervened, visibly roaring at the sideline official, at least once, demanding his players be given more protection in their fourth round qualifier against Laois (and at the same time being pushed away by Laois manager Justin McNulty).
“I would be fearful that our players are going to end up on the receiving end of something that’s going to cause everybody a lot of pain, and it’s just not worth it, if it goes to that point,” said McGuinness – his post-match reaction on Saturday evening sounding more like a public service announcement.
“Because I am not happy that we have a player (McHugh) with a burst ear drum. I am not happy he had a major concussion. I am not happy that he has a five centimetre tear in his quad muscle as a result of the impact.
“I am not happy that he spent two nights in hospital. I am not happy that he has missed a full week off work.
“For me, we are in a very dangerous position and I would fear that something is going to happen. My biggest fear is a spinal injury or a neck injury. He (McHugh) also shipped a very, very heavy tackle in the All-Ireland final. We have to create a situation where we feel that it is okay to send players out on the pitch.
“We are not afraid of physicality. But Mark McHugh’s injury last week was our fourth concussion in three games. (Ryan McHugh, Ryan Bradley, and Declan Walsh being the others). Four concussions in three games? I would imagine the Munster or Leinster rugby fellas wouldn’t have that level.”
McGuinness was also clear this wasn’t some delayed reaction to the Ulster final defeat - and that Monaghan “fully deserved their win”.