I can’t tell you how much of a buzz it would have been for David Gough to have taken charge of Saturday’s game in Castlebar.
The quality of the match might have been questionable at times but the occasion and what was riding on it certainly wasn’t.
The atmosphere even when it was raining, the passion, the tension — it was there for everyone to see.
I would have been involved in games like that in Munster and you’re just thrilled to be able to contribute to it in some way and David did do that. I know the two big calls — the Keith Higgins black card and the penalty against Mayo — were 50-50 ones but I give David the benefit of the doubt in each case.
Higgins didn’t do himself any favours keeping his arm around Paddy McBrearty, or perhaps the arm was kept. It was on the harsh side but if he had broken the hold of McBrearty, I’d say David would have shown him a yellow card instead. McBrearty was cute in what he did but Higgins is an experienced defender and could have done more to avoid the black.
Lee Keegan did pick up a yellow card for conceding the penalty. He also gave David enough reason to give it because he was pulling on Michael Murphy’s jersey.
Hugh McFadden ploughed into Aidan O’Shea after the penalty was scored by Murphy and he could have seen red instead of the yellow both he and Colm Boyle picked up.
What followed then was a three-minute period when you would have needed eyes on the back of your head to take in all that was happening.
So much was happening on and off the ball and for David to keep things under control was a feat in itself.
The vast majority of the yellows he showed throughout the game were right. Stephen McMenamin for a high tackle on Stephen Coen, Michael Lanigan tackling with a closed fist, Andy Moran for a late tackle as well as those for Leo McLoone and Odhrán McFadden-Ferry for excessive fouling.
Paul Brennan was correctly black-carded for a deliberate body collide too.
Overall, I felt David rose to the pace and the passion with which the game was played and he is now the leading contender for the All-Ireland final now that Conor Lane will take charge of Dublin-Mayo and Maurice Deegan officiates Kerry and Tyrone.
Gough has been very patient for the big one in the last few years but it looks like it’s his time now.
In the Tyrone-Dublin game yesterday, Joe McQuillan missed two hops by Michael Cassidy and Conan Grugan’s high tackle on Johnny Cooper definitely merited the yellow card he was shown.
Upon his return to Dublin colours, Diarmuid Connolly can have no complaints about his black card.
When you keep hold of the player as you bring him to ground you are in trouble and he was rightly sent to the line by Joe.
On another matter, seven minutes at the end seemed a lot but I think referees are being careful after Maurice’s handling of the Mayo-Armagh qualifier when there wasn’t enough additional time played.
As for the pending All-Ireland hurling final appointment, James Owens looked to be the man in the driving seat. I know from experience Kilkenny-Tipperary games take on a life of their own and they need a good bit of handling and James is capable of doing that.
But I must admit disappointment with some of the comments made by the new GAA match officials manager Donal Smith last week.
Smith defended Seán Cleere’s fitness following the Tipperary-Wexford game but we’ve become so bogged down with fitness and not enough is being done to help referees make the right decision under pressure and having the confidence in their own ability to apply the rules.
We lost Johnny Ryan and Rory McGann to extra fitness requirements this year and that’s not something hurling refereeing can afford right now.
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