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David Graham: Absence of ambulance at final a ‘mistake’, says new Linfield chief

David Walsh was injured when he came out to challenge Thomas Maguire for the ball
David Walsh was injured when he came out to challenge Thomas Maguire for the ball

Linfield’s new general manager David Graham says the Co Antrim FA must learn lessons from Tuesday’s Shield final.

Blues keeper David Walsh sustained a head injury late in the game against Larne but there was no ambulance cover at Seaview to deal with the incident.

“To have no ambulance cover is a grave mistake – I’m sure they (Co Antrim FA) will reflect on that in terms of planning for next year,” said Graham.

He also believes the local refereeing lacks “that depth of quality anymore”.

Walsh, who returned to light training on Thursday, received lengthy treatment after colliding with Larne’s Thomas Maguire in the final minute.

The keeper waited for an ambulance to arrive before receiving stitches in hospital for facial injuries.

“In terms of the Co Antrim FA there are clear lessons to be learnt regarding a final of that magnitude and that crowd,” said Graham.

“It’s only when something like this happens that you find out and learn from it. Only for our club doctor being on site – that was very, very important. I think that something has to be fixed, not only for finals, but in my view for all senior games.

“We have an ambulance here for all home games at Windsor Park – I think every club must do that in the future and I know that’s something NIFL are very keen on doing, so I think all clubs have to act on that now.”

BBC Sport NI contacted the County Antrim FA on Thursday for comment.

Triple red

Linfield defender Kyle McClean was red-carded by referee Shane Andrews in the decider with Blues boss David Healy and assistant Ross Oliver also sent-off.

Graham believes that standard of refereeing needs to improve in order to keep pace with the growing professionalism in the Irish Premiership.

“It’s something David (Healy) and I have spoken about. This league is becoming more professional, more teams are going full-time and other teams are talking about it.

“But I think the standard of officiating has fallen behind and hasn’t kept pace with that. And that’s not a criticism of our referees – they do a really good tough job.

Linfield manager David Healy is red-carded by referee Shane Andrews at Seaview
Linfield manager David Healy is red-carded by referee Shane Andrews at Seaview

“I wouldn’t do it personally but I don’t think there’s that depth of quality anymore and I think it’s a job for the clubs, NIFL and IFA – there’s firm action needed there.

“Not just on Tuesday night – this has been going on for a number of years. Outside of two or three good officials, I’m not too sure that depth is there now.”

Healy said referees need assistance to reach the level required to officiate in the modern game.

“Ultimately if the game is to be professionalised then it’s for the people upstairs to look into all aspects and officials are a key aspect of that,” he said.

“If the game is to progress then officials need to be given as much training as possible and as much support and help. I would find it very difficult if I was a full-time teacher or doctor or whatever they do.

“For me, to give them the best chance then those in the football authorities need to support them and make the officials as professional as possible.”

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