'We need to go Aussie Rules style' - McConville calls for two referees in club games

Clontibret beat Crossmaglen in Armagh to reach the Ulster Club semi-finals
Clontibret beat Crossmaglen in Armagh to reach the Ulster Club semi-finals

Oisin McConville says the need for a second referee in top-level club matches to ease pressure on officials is becoming 'obvious'.

The former Armagh All-Ireland winner was speaking on BBC Sport NI's Ulster Club Championship highlights programme.

"I just feel it's time for two referees," said McConville.

"You can't make decisions from 50 or 60 yards behind the play. I think we need to take that onus away from the refs rather than us giving out about them."

Refereeing came under the spotlight during the weekend's quarter-final action in the Ulster Club SFC.

Magherafelt's Simon McErlain saw a goal chalked off after referee Joe McQuillan decided against playing an advantage during their defeat by Kilcoo at Pairc Esler on Sunday.

That incident came after Crossmaglen's Rico Kelly was penalised for a challenge on Clontibret forward Michael P O'Dowd by referee Sean Hurson at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night.

Kelly's intervention led to the Monaghan side scoring through Conor McManus to take a 0-8 to 0-6 lead at a crucial stage in the second half, with Cross eventually losing by a single point.

McConville, who won 10 Ulster Club titles with Cross as a player, believes it's unfair to expect referees to adequately cover games on a Gaelic Games-sized pitch, and believes having a referee in each half of the pitch could be a solution.

"It's the situation we put the refs in," he said.

"Look at the size of the pitch, one ref has to cover and be on top of everything. He has to get more help from his linesmen, but the big thing for me now is that we need to go Aussie Rules style and have one referee in each half.

Joe McQuillan was the referee for Kilcoo's victory over Magherafelt in Newry
Joe McQuillan was the referee for Kilcoo's victory over Magherafelt in Newry

"I know people don't like that, I know people don't like change, but it's for the good of the game. At the inter-county game, it's a very obvious one, but it's starting to get obvious at top-level club matches."

He added: "The stark realisation has come that one referee is not enough in the inter-county games.

"On Saturday night, we realised it's not even enough for club games anymore.

"We're talking about a game that was played in very poor underfoot conditions.

"Players weren't moving maybe as quickly as they could have done, maybe not as quickly as they were in Newry today."

Clontibret boss McEntee 'still one of us'

Clontibret's victory over Crossmaglen stirred complicated feelings for Cross legend John McEntee, who has been in charge of the Monaghan club since January 2018.

McConville, who played and managed alongside McEntee at Rangers, said the former centre half forward 'handled himself well' during Saturday night's clash.

"I can only imagine the sort of situation he was in," he said.

McEntee and McConville led Crossmaglen to the Ulster title in 2015 as co-managers
McEntee and McConville led Crossmaglen to the Ulster title in 2015 as co-managers

"I thought he handled it well. He's still one of us.

"He may be in Clontibret for a bit of a sojourn at the minute, but eventually he'll be back. He gave us great days out in the Ulster club championship.

"We don't begrudge him. We did last night and you just have to suck it up. John is very professional in everything that he does.

"We'll be 100% behind him as Clontibret go forward."

Watch the full Ulster Club Championship highlights show on the BBC iPlayer.