Tuesday 17 September 2019

Banteer/Lyre clubman to complete a 'Rebel treble'

Proud day for Conor as he takes charge of third All-Ireland final

Bill Browne

While all the talk amid GAA circles may be of Dublin's shot at a 'five-in-row', one Cork man will be celebrating his own personal 'Rebel treble' at Croke Park on Saturday, September 14.

Conor Lane will be the man in the middle when Dublin and Kerry renew their rivalry at GAA HQ after last Sunday's mail biting All-Ireland football showdown was unable to separate the two sides.  The 41-year-old father of two is no stranger to the big match atmosphere having previously taken charge of the drawn 2016 final between Dublin and Mayo and the 2018 decider which saw Dublin lift the Sam Maguire for the fourth time in succession after defeating Tyrone.  Since taking up refereeing back in the mid 2000's Conor, who had previously played hurling with Banteer and football with Lyre, has risen steadily up the ranks to become one of the most respected officials in the game. Along the way he has officiated matches at all levels, earning him a place on an elite panel of just 16 referees on the championship panel. 

"Refereeing is a huge commitment and you have to make it a part of your life. For example, training for the 2020 season will commence in Mallow at the start of October," said Conor.  However, his main priority now is preparing for Saturday week's much anticipated replay - which will be the seventh championship game he has taken charge of this year.  The question on many people's lips will undoubtedly be how do you prepare for such a high-profile game, particularly in light of the pressure he will be under given the inevitable passion that will be aroused both on and off the pitch on the big day.

Conor said maintaining his fitness levels is key to his preparations. He also likes to filter though decisions made during previous matches so that he is prepared for all and every eventuality. "Naturally, expectations will be high. I was on the line for last Sunday's game and you could feel the passion coming from the players and supporters. I am expecting it to be a tough game, but it's for days like this that you take up refereeing in the first place," said Conor.  "That said, in some ways it will be like any other game in that the same rules apply across the board and my role is to apply those fairly. To me, my role is about assisting the players and being the invisible man on the pitch, making the game run as smoothly as possible. I know the players and they know me so we all know what is expected of us. If I have to make a call on tight decisions I will. That is what I am there for." Conor was keen to point out that he is just one part of a team of officials that will be overseeing the match, a team that has a distinctly north Cork flavour with his umpires on the day being fellow Banteer/Lyre clubmen Kevin Roche and DJ O'Sullivan, Ray Hegarty of Bride Rovers and Kilshannig's Pat Kelly.

"It really is a team effort. We have worked together before which will help make my job that little bit easier," said Conor.  "We are looking forward to representing our respective clubs on the day. It promises to be a huge, exciting challenge for all of us, but where else would you want to be on a day like that?"