Joe McQuillan speaks honestly about nerves for Mayo v Dublin game 2 years ago

Joe McQuillan speaks honestly about nerves for Mayo v Dublin game

Whatever referee was appointed, somebody somewhere was going to raise an eyebrow.

It just so happened that Joe McQuillan was selected to officiate the All-Ireland football final on September 17 and, as with most refs at the top, it just so happens that he has history with the top counties.

This will be McQuillan's third final in just seven seasons and, twice before, he's refereed deciders which Dublin went on to win - 2011 against Kerry and 2013 against Mayo.

When his name was announced this week for the 2017 final, a lot of Mayo natives almost involuntarily recoiled their eyeballs into their foreheads - okay, some were more vocal than others - and the perception is that 'he doesn't like Mayo' or, rather, the Cavan man is 'a Dublin man'.

There are a few reasons for this but, mainly, they surround two different years.

  • In 2013, Mayo trailed Dublin by two in the decider, Cillian O'Connor had a free and asked how much time was left. Joe McQuillan advised that there were 30 seconds left. When the ball was kicked out, the referee blew the full time whistle but it was more than likely a communications breakdown where the Mayo forward assumed there was 30 seconds when the play was restarted and so he took his time with the free.
  • In 2015, he was in charge of the drawn semi-final between both counties and, whilst you might pick out different instances, in the larger picture he awarded both sides a penalty and he sent off Diarmuid Connolly.

Then unsubstantiated stories spread like McQuillan was reffing in-house Dublin games and little things begin to add up - things like the free in the first Roscommon game this year which allowed Donie Smith to bring Mayo to a replay. A free which the green and red would contest its legitimacy.

Enough time passes with enough hard luck stories and you have a referee nicknamed 'Dublin Joe' in some parts.

However, in an honest interview speaking to the Joe Finnegan show on Shannonside NorthernSound, McQuillan discussed Mayo/Dublin.

"They're two brilliant teams and they keep coming back against each other," the Ulster ref said.

"There's not an awful lot between them and I would expect a huge game between both teams on the day.

"I think Mayo will really push up on them and ask a lot of questions of them."

Asked about the spotlight and the pressure, he fronted up and admitted that he feels it.

"Anybody who doesn't have nerves or pressure is a heck of a man," he said.

"I will be as nervous as everyone else. In the build-up to the game, you're always a bit on edge and in the morning of the game, absolutely. But at 3.30pm on the 17th when the ball is thrown-in, the nerves will go and you're into the game.

"And it's a game that's just like any other game. Okay, it might be the All-Ireland but it is another game and it's just like players - I remember from playing myself - you're nervous for championship football but once the ball is thrown-in, once you get your hands on the ball, generally the nerves pull away."

So his approach will stay the same - no matter if it's Dublin, if it's Mayo or if it's an All-Ireland final or not, he argues that he will always treat every occasion the same, despite no game ever being the same.

"I will continue things as normal.

"I'm going out to manage a minor match tonight and I'm doing an intermediate match tomorrow night in Cavan so things will continue as normal."

Maybe that's what worries some Mayo fans...