Experience proves to be McEnaney’s advantage

PAT McENANEY believes his experience as a referee was crucial when he allowed Armagh forward Ronan Clarke the advantage to goal in Sunday’s Ulster SFC clash against Tyrone.

McEnaney has received widespread praise for his decision to allow play to continue despite Clarke having been fouled by Conor Gormley. The advantage rule was a major source of debate during last weekend’s action, as elsewhere in Thurles Cork attacker Timmy McCarthy was denied a goal against Tipperary in the Munster SHC after referee Barry Kelly had blown his whistle for a prior foul.

But McEnaney feels it’s difficult to ask young referees to make ‘big calls’.

“That comes with mileage on the clock. If I couldn’t see the advantage coming in one or two seconds I would still blow the free kick,” he explained.

“I always say it doesn’t matter how late you are at blowing the whistle, but make sure you get the decision right. That’s my theory. You can count the seconds – one, two, three – and if you see something developing then you let it go. If you don’t see a clear advantage then you blow it up.

“Sometimes we have been accused maybe of blowing too quickly, the minute the foul happens instead of looking at the bigger picture and seeing if there is ‘something greater’ all around it. On Sunday, Armagh needed a goal to bring them back into the game and here he (Clarke) was goal-side of his man and a player I know who tends to stay on his feet all the time. So, all these things were going through my head.”

McEnaney, who was chuffed with the comment on the Sunday Game that he could have been in the running for ‘man-of-the-match’, believes the current advantage regulation is adequate as long as a referee has the experience to apply it properly.

“I have never got that kind of praise. I think the big call was the Ronan Clarke goal – that I let it go and then came back and booked Conor Gormley (who had attempted to pull him down). Experience tells me that Ronan Clarke never looks for handy frees. He’s one of these players – a bit like Seamus Moynihan – who always need to be on his feet. He has that trait as a full-forward. I know that about him.”

With his appointment only being ratified after Monaghan were beaten in the previous game (he is a native of the county and a brother of the manager), he suggested that it wasn’t a case of him being under pressure to deliver after what happened in Celtic Park. Irrespective of the type of game, the message that comes through constantly from the National Referees Committee is ‘apply the rules.’

“And that’s what I try to do every time I go out. There was nothing different about Sunday’s game. I have refereed numerous Armagh/Tyrone games and nothing changes. You just apply the rules. I refereed the Ulster final in Croke Park in 2005 and I got a couple of poor calls in that game and in ended up a draw. Michael Collins did the replay and it got a bit messy.

“But there’s a very healthy rivalry between Armagh and Tyrone. There’s nothing nasty or sinister about them two teams. That’s my belief from refereeing over past ten years. All they want is a referee who is going to apply the rules. You would have to say that the two teams contributed greatly to the game. They had a great attitude.

“They knew what they were getting when they had me; I knew what I was getting when I had them. In all fairness to Armagh, they could have lost their discipline when they were eight points down. But, they held their nerve and clawed their way back into the game.

“It was a very difficult day because of the heat which was energy-sapping, but my fitness is good and I was well up for the game. I needed a big performance from myself, the committee that I represented needed me to produce a big performance and all in all it worked out that way.

“Of course I’m happy. I have had my bad days. But, training tomorrow evening is going to be quite easy for me.”

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