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Owens all set for Battle of Brewster

Published 29/05/2012

Fermanagh full-back Barry Owens knows that he will play a vital role in Sunday's Brewster Park meeting with Down. Eamonn O'Hara writes... HAWK-Eye is not in play for the Championship, just yet, but it is expected to be put through its goal-line paces during the GAA's summer festival of Championship, as it was in the National League.

The video-television referee is an ongoing debate, with current and former players advocating the benefits of using this technology like the system tried and tested and integrated into the match officiating of other sports such as Rugby Union.

In Zurich last week Fifa decided to trial the Hawk-Eye score detection system, following on from controversies at the 2010 World Cup.

Saturday's international friendly at Wembley between England and Belgium is the first scheduled run out before Fifa's rules-making panel meet in Kiev on July 2.

Barry Owens, twice recognised as Gaelic football's Allstar full-back, thinks that embracing high-tech systems would strengthen match officiating, reduce avoidable error and be effective in curtailing controversy.

Not only goal-line issues he sees technology having added value to the GAA's prime time product, the Championship.

"It would still be nice to see it used, in relation to penalties for instance, for someone else to adjudicate on things like that, where a couple of seconds are all it would take," said Fermanagh's anchorman.

"I think that you would have a quick call made, and then there's no argument. Croke Park are trying it (Hawk-Eye) in some of the matches. It is good to see that the GAA is dipping into technology.

"Hopefully in the next couple of years it will be there at county level for the big games, for the Championship, when teams have more to lose, when there are more people watching the games, so it's good to see it being tried out. It is a good thing."

The specifics of when the summer trial will start on the Hawk-Eye system have still to be confirmed.

It was suggested Sunday's doublebill at Croke Park featuring Louth and All-Ireland champions Dublin and Longford against Wexford was earmarked for it but the League tests identified some issues and the official green light has yet to be given.

For the moment, the change to the 'square ball' rule is the live issue. A correctly disallowed Laois goal against Longford and Louth's late forays that yielded a stoppage-time win over Westmeath are about as much added interest as the rule change has caused so far.

Sunday sees Fermanagh and Down next into the Ulster SFC spotlight for potential Championship drama, the possibility of a shock and perhaps, with the like of Seamus Quigley and Kalum King around 'the house', some focus on the square rule.

"It will definitely be very challenging for a full-back, and I suppose a goalkeeper as well, and corner-backs. It is going to be war zone for many players until you get used to it," said Owens.

Until Congress signed off the change for the Championship, players could not enter the small rectangle before the ball at any stage.

They are still not for 45s, sidelines and frees but in open play players are permitted.

"We will just have to see what happens. If that works, you might as well try it.

"We will see what we can do. I am sure we'll see Kalum King up there at some stage for Down."

A timely experience for Fermanagh to prepare was the Division Four final against Wicklow at Croke Park. The problems Seanie Furlong caused an injury-hit side that day put a certain focus on training for Down's arrival to Brewster Park.

"Wicklow ran Armagh close last year, should have beaten Armagh and three years ago they beat ourselves, Cavan and Down so they are not a bad team.

"They have quality forwards, like Down, so we know we have an uphill task ahead of us," said Owens.

"Playing full-back, the biggest thing, from my point of view, is breaking the ball away rather than trying to make a catch, break it as far as possible from the area, for a sideline, even a 45."

Seamus Quigley, James Sherry and Martin McGrath are some of the options Fermanagh may look to to ruffle Down's defensive composure.

"In training it's good to have someone like Seamie, James Sherry and Marty, all handy in the square too, to get us used to it and the change to the square ball rule could definitely suit them," he said.

"But, I think teams will switch it about, play the ball in short, switch it long, change between the two.

"It makes for more excitement and makes it more challenging."

After a tough 2011 for various reasons, a youthful understrength squad was fast-tracked last year and put through the mill in the Championship, going out to Derry in Ulster and London in the All-Ireland Qualifiers.

"A lot of players grew up very quickly. They had to," he said. "They will be a bit battle-hardened now and have gained a lot from winning promotion. Getting out of Division Four was a hard job. That was good for us. Hopefully we'll reap the benefits of the experience in the Championship."

The last time Fermanagh and Down met was in 2009 when the Ernemen won 0-13 to 0-10 in a preliminary round tussle.

The Mournemen reached the All-Ireland final the following year and are in the ascendancy now.

"We know what they are about, even without Benny Coulter and Martin Clarke," said Owens.

"They are a quality team. When you look at it, look at them and ourselves, it's like Barcelona against Chelsea.

"Down would be the aristocrats, we would be an up and coming team. Hopefully we can get the same kind of result as Chelsea got.

"This is a difficult one, definitely, for us."

Sunday's big Championship TV production will track all the moves in the 'Battle of Brewster'.

Now, if Peter Canavan's underdogs with attitude were to deliver a Gaelic take on the conquerors of the Catalan kings, Ramires and Torres...