Belfast Telegraph

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Saudi not so good on yet another off day for the refs

By Billy Weir

IT'S good to see that the silly season doesn't just apply to clubs and boards, it's nice to see the powers that be and referees joining in too.

It is easy to understand Oran Kearney's consternation at being a guinea pig when the bizarre decision was taken to jet in a team of officials from Saudi Arabia to take charge of Coleraine's crucial game with Warrenpoint Town at the weekend.

Now, Oran is one of the most mild-mannered men you could ever wish to meet but even he was spitting feathers at this bizarre decision. Then again, with the officials only having a smattering of English they probably felt right at home in Coleraine. I'm joking, calm down.

"Having the officials over was not ideal in my opinion, and I wasn't happy when I heard about it," Oran said.

"Why pick us for an experiment? How did we get chosen? There were three or four decisions for both sides you would query.

"I'm glad it hasn't cost us with a debatable red card or penalty. If it was sixth against seventh then I wouldn't have cared, anyone could have reffed the game.

"It's great experience for them and I don't begrudge that element of it."

Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg, now in charge of Saudi refs, was in attendance - I wonder if he got an 'I love Ballysally' tattoo on his trip? - but you don't have to go as far as the Middle East to get baffling refereeing decisions.

In Carrickfergus we had a contender for howler of the season as the man in the middle Keith Kennedy red-carded Joel Cooper for savagely kicking a defenceless ball with a perfectly-timed challenge.

In the end Glenavon defeated Carrick Rangers and we all know that refs are merely human, despite the rumours otherwise, and at least he annoyed both sides by awarding a contentious penalty that gave Glenavon a late winner.

"I told him that I thought he had an absolute disgrace of a performance and he said I'll put that in my report," said David McAlinden.

"It's like dealing with children at times. The relationship is probably the worst I've seen in all my days involved in football.

"If I saw Davy Malcolm, Davy Redfern or any of those guys who refereed when I was playing I could stand and have a yarn with them. If I saw any of the ones today I would cross the road and not speak to them!"

And I'm sure that Oran feels the same, although he'll need to swap Riada for Riyadh to avoid his officials. Still, I'm sure it was a lovely return trip that our officials went on.

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