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Liam O'Neill wants to see ex-players fast tracked to refereeing inter county games

O’Neill is also open to changing the inter-county calendar for the benefit of club games.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

OUTGOING GAA PRESIDENT Liam O’Neill has revealed he would love to see former inter-county players move into refereeing and be fast-tracked to officiate top level games.

The standard of refereeing has come under criticism yet again this year in both codes, most notably when, in the immediate aftermath of Kilkenny’s All-Ireland final win, Brian Cody condemned Barry Kelly’s performance in the drawn game.

O’Neill’s three-year-term ends next April, when he will be replaced by Aogan O Fearghail, but he says ex-players would ‘enhance’ officiating in the game.

I’m finished with refereeing other than that I have expressed a wish that more inter-county players, when they are finished, would be encouraged into refereeing.

“I would love to see them fast-tracked to refereeing inter-county matches, not to have to go through the 10 or 15 years that the normal person has to come up along.

“I think we need to experiment, I don’t say that because I don’t think the referees are good enough at the moment, I just think we need to find new ways to freshen it up. I have expressed that to the Referees Committee. That is not just for inter-county, the same would apply at club level.”

Odhran Mac Niallais, Liam O'Neill and Kieran Bergin 21/10/2014 Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Elsewhere, O’Neill feels that the inter-county schedule could be rejigged to compensate for the condensing of the club calendar into a calendar year –  even if that includes moving All-Ireland finals away from the first and third Sundays in September.

“Everything’s open. We’ll be looking at sequencing. We are aware that the sequence as it is now maximises the publicity for our games at a very important time of the year and if we change that we know there’ll be a knock-on effect. But if we keep on doing what we’re doing nothing will change.

“We’re aware we have to keep clubs interested, keep them open for business if we want to maximise the membership opportunities and the playing opportunities at club level and marry that with the inter-county scene.

“We might have to look at early-season tournaments, the dates national leagues are played and when championship starts.

“This will be only the start of radical change. We’ve known the problem has existed and I suppose we’re now taking the opportunity to do something about it.

He expects the changes to be in place by the beginning of the 2016 season, while admitting that changing the dates of one competition has a direct impact on others and that balance is key.

“We will have firm proposals and we will be recommending change. We hope to have them for congress; they obviously won’t take effect in 2015 but in the 2016 calendar year. I think we need finality and this is the way to do it.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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