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Ulster whistler McQuillan will feel the heat

By John Campbell

Ulster not only provides one of the teams in Sunday's All-Ireland minor football final but is also represented in the senior decider.

Yet it is difficult to assess just who will be under the greatest pressure – Tyrone when they square up to high-flying Mayo or Cavan whistler Joe McQuillan when he will be the man in the middle for the eagerly-awaited Dublin v Mayo senior showpiece.

While Tyrone approach their assignment buoyed by recent fine wins over Kerry and Roscommon but with their guard firmly up given their opponents' fine track record, McQuillan finds himself virtually in a lose-lose situation.

Not only does he enter the national spotlight in the knowledge that Brian Gavin, who refereed the drawn hurling decider between Cork and Clare on Sunday week last, came under fire from all quarters but he has been forced to take stock of some none-too-subtle comments from former Mayo player and current RTE pundit Kevin McStay.

McStay has almost certainly heaped extra pressure on McQuillan by declaring: "The biggest problem for me in terms of referees is that too many officials are deciding who wins the big matches.

"I hope that's through incompetence or a poor call. But there's no doubt they are deciding it."

And as if to add fuel to the flames he goes on: "In the games we've seen in the All-Ireland series so far there have been quite a few errors and the referee chosen for this final, though very competent, there's so much going on for him to keep track of."

McQuillan, who took charge of the 2011 All-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry, will come under the closest scrutiny on Sunday.

Yet refereeing gaffes have not been as commonplace this year as they were last term.

McQuillan is an experienced whistler, however, and is unlikely to be fazed by the demands of the occasion.

And McStay perhaps conveniently forgets that no fewer than EIGHT officials – McQuillan, his two linesmen, four umpires and the fourth official on the touchline – in addition to Hawkeye will have an input into Sunday's game.

In rugby's World Cup three officials plus the 'TV eye' in the stand are deemed sufficient to control high-profile fixtures which are beamed around the world.

The GAA is understandably anxious that gaelic football is shown in the best possible light via its annual showpiece fixture but placing the referee in an almost intolerable position does not help matters.

The best way that this can be achieved is by the players adopting a responsible, sportsmanlike attitude, remembering that many fans are paying €80 to watch them perform.

* THE closing date for entries for the Ulster Bank GAA Force initiative has been extended until tomorrow. The concept affords clubs throughout the province the opportunity to win funds to help them develop their facilities.

St Joseph's, Ederney won the GAA Force All-Ireland series three years ago while St Ergnat's, Moneyglass scooped the biggest prize in Ulster last year.

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