Sports

Omagh man to play major part in Irish Cup final

Thursday, 20 April 2017

AN Omagh man will take his place on the side-line of the biggest day of the Northern Ireland domestic football calendar in a fortnight.

Jarlath McElholm has been appointed as assistant referee for the Irish Cup final between Coleraine and Linfield at Windsor Park on May 6.

“It was a pleasant surprisem I must say," said the 49 year old. "It was a nice one to get. It's the game everyone wants to get."

Jarlath, who is the principal at Sacred Heart Primary school in Tattyreagh, got the phone call from the head of the refereeing department last Wednesday, and is looking forward to officiating at the biggest game of his refereeing career to date.

“It's the cup final, and it will be the biggest crowd. Coleraine haven't been in the final for a few years, and Linfield have pulled closer to the top of the league, so they could be going for the double.

“I did the league cup final three years ago between Crusaders and Cliftonville, and I've done a few games that were shown on Sky Sports. There have been some big games in this year's cup as well, namely Crusaders versus Linfield the biggest game.

“It was the standout tie of that round, and I suppose the crowd reflected that. It was a nice game to be involved with. Whenever you get that appointment it is nice to know that people trust you to be involved in a game of that standing.

“From one game to the next, from one minute to the next, you never know what situation can arise. With the offside law, the intricacies are there, you need to keep your concentration at all times as they are players moving, deflections and ricochets. You have to keep your wits about you.

“The last thing you want is an assistant referee to get an offside decision wrong. You want the game to be won on merit, certainly not on a refereeing error."

Jarlath played football in the Fermanagh and Western League for 18 years until 2004, when he decided to take up the whistle. Initially a referee, Jarlath made the transition to assistant referee, or 'linesman', seven years ago, and hasn't looked back since.

“The opportunity came to try out the lines, and I found that I probably enjoyed that even more. It's a different kind of challenge. I enjoy the offside decisions obviously, but in recent years, there is more involvement in match decisions and working with the referee through your earpiece."

Another Tyrone man, Raymond Hetherington from Dungannon, will be the man in charge of the showpiece final at the National Stadium.

“Over the last three years, I've worked with Raymond every second or third week and we have got used to each others game. The level of trust and familiarity is strong. It's good that officials are familiar with each other and we like to think that standards have improved because of that."

When news of the appointment spread, Jarlath received lots of well wishes from friends in the football community

“A lot of the local football fraternity have been very quick to pass on their congratulations. It's a great feather to have in the cap.

“Refereeing has been very, very good to me, and I didn't think when I started playing football at the age of 18 that by 49 I'd still be so heavily involved, but it's a good pastime for keeping you interested and fit. I've made a lot of good friends over the last 15 years, and I'd encourage anyone out there to give it a rattle."

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