Former Tipperary star James Woodlock has appealed for "fairness" from referee Brian Gavin in Sunday’s All-Ireland senior hurling final against Kilkenny, writes Jackie Cahill.
Tipp’s record against the Cats in big championship games in recent seasons isn’t good, as Kilkenny won the 2011 and 2014 finals, the latter a replay, as well as a 2013 qualifier at Nowlan Park, all games the Offaly whistler took charge of.
— GAA Nostalgia (@gaanostalgia) August 30, 2016
Woodlock also believes it’s “strange” that no referee from Munster has appointed to a final since Michael Wadding in 2010, when Tipp stopped Kilkenny’s ‘drive for five’, and noted that Barry Kelly hasn’t taken charge of a championship game involving the Cats since he was criticised in 2014.
Woodlock says that while Kilkenny will be happy with the news that Gavin is the man in the middle again, Tipp fans are “apprehensive.”
And he also urged Gavin to ignore any potential touchline intimidation.
Woodlock, who retired from inter-county hurling last year, said: “We’re looking for fairness on the day, both teams want fairness. What’s good for one team is good for the other and he’s got to keep up with the pace of the play.
“It’s strange that there’s been no Munster ref since 2010 and there’s probably a lot of Munster referees disappointed over it, that they’re not getting a good crack of the whip.
“Kilkenny have won 11 All-Ireland finals with Brian Cody in charge, the first in 2000 when Tipperary’s Willie Barrett was ref but nine more with Leinster men (Limerick’s Pat O’Connor refereed the 2003 final).
“Diarmuid Kirwan was the referee in 2009 (and in 2007) but it’s widely known that he’s from Ballyskenagh in Offaly.
“Some people might think he’s from Cork but he’s an Offaly man, so that was another Leinster man in charge of that game."
And Woodlock added: “It’s unusual that Barry Kelly hasn’t refereed a Kilkenny championship game since he was criticised after 2014.
“He’s a Leinster referee so surely he should be doing the Leinster games?
“Overall it’s just fairness that we want, Tipperary and Kilkenny people. We want the referee to do his job – and do it to the best of his ability.
“It’s going to be a ferocious and frantic match for the 75 minutes or whatever it takes.
“It’s up to Brian to do his job and not listen to anybody else.
“His style is to let it go and to be honest, if he does that on Sunday it will suit both sets of players, and will suit the game in general.
“He can aid in this if he allows the game to flow but transparency has to come into play across the board and he can’t take dictatorship from the sideline, or anyone.”
Woodlock acknowledges that Brian Cody cuts an imposing figure on the touchline – and he believes the Kilkenny boss has the power to potentially influence referees and touchline officials.
He added: “I think Brian Cody has that demeanour – and right so.
“If the Tipp manager, Kilkenny manager, or whoever has the power to potentially influence decisions, why not?
“If Brian Cody is able to do it, he’s 100% right but it’s up to the referee to cut it out, not anyone else. If Michael Ryan can do it, it’s up to the ref to cut it out.
“It’s up to the ref to have the confidence in himself to referee the match.
“He has a big job to aid in a superb All-Ireland final and that’s what we’ll get.
“It would be disappointing if it’s marred by (refereeing) mistakes on the field for either team.
"I'd say Kilkenny are happy enough with the referee but Tipperary are apprehensive."