Ref watch: Hurling is his first love but Lane now at the top of his game when it comes to football
Cork referee Conor Lane, unlike his colleague David Gough, is enjoying a calm lead-in to his third All-Ireland senior football final.
Gough had his preparations for the drawn game overshadowed by a public debate about his Dublin connections. Lane can at least wait until the game starts before being subjected to that level of scrutiny.
Though not his first final, it will be his first replay which, he’ll know, usually brings increased friction and a more demanding policing challenge. In 2016 in his first All-Ireland senior final he was part of a surreal day when Mayo’s quest for a first title since 1951 almost foundered on two own goals before they claimed a draw against Dublin.
Lane, from the Banteer/Lyre club in the Duhallow division, has made an impressive rise since he began refereeing in 2003. In 2009 he took charge of his first Cork senior football final and made the inter-county championship panel only two years later. He played junior hurling for Banteer and as recently as last year’s All-Ireland final between Dublin and Tyrone his father, John Joe, was one of his match-day officials.
In his first final three years ago, he dismissed James McCarthy on a black card in the first half, a decision which rankled with Jim Gavin.
"I suppose when you look at why the black card was brought in, it was for cynical play, for blocks, pull-downs or trips," Gavin said at the time. "I don't think it (McCarthy's tackle) fits into that category. But from the referee's performance, we're just looking for consistency.
"That certainly wasn't out there today. Definitely, if James got a black card for that particular shoulder, there was definitely other ones on the opposition side. So I think from both camps we just want consistency over the full expanse of the game from the refereeing perspective. Difficult as it was - and I thought he did a good job, difficult conditions."
That day John Small ended up man of the match. In last year’s decider, Lane’s second senior final to referee, Small was sent off late against Tyrone after picking up a second yellow card. Lane had a busy day, awarding Dublin a 19th minute penalty and a yellow card to Tiernan McCann for his foul on Paul Mannion. There was a second penalty award, to Tyrone, in the closing stages, when Philly McMahon pulled down Colm Cavanagh.
In this year’s championship, he refereed the All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Mayo, the quarter-final between Meath and Donegal, the Ulster Championship meetings of Donegal and Cavan and Cavan and Monaghan, the Connacht Championship clash of New York and Mayo, and in the Leinster Championship, he oversaw the meeting of Dublin and Kildare.
He has also taken charge of the 2013 All-Ireland MFC final, and the 2016 All-Ireland SFC club decider.
In an interview last year he said he was against introducing a second referee and has also said that hurling is his first love.
In 2015 the then Derry manager Brian McIver quit his job following a qualifier match against Galway in which Lane officiated. He was highly critical of the referee’s performance. But the Corkman is now seen as one of the most able and experienced in the game.