Trust me when I say this — it’s every referee’s worst nightmare to send a player off in an All-Ireland final. It’s the one game of the year when you want to keep the red card in the pocket, and I firmly believe James Owens wanted to do that yesterday.
Brian Cody mentioned after the game that James wasn’t sure about Richie Hogan’s foul on Cathal Barrett in the 33rd minute. I would disagree. I believe he was taking that long to try and keep Hogan on the field, but when it came to making the big call, the evidence was too convincing.
I also feel James was thinking back to his first All-Ireland final in 2012 when he didn’t send off Johnny Coen for a neck-high tackle on Colin Fennelly. In terms of appointments, I think, in the couple of years that followed, James suffered as a result of not making that call. The delay yesterday showed he w was giving yesterday’s call careful consideration.
Sitting in the Hogan Stand, I initially felt Barrett had made a meal of it. But having seen the replays of the incident, there was obvious contact made between Hogan’s elbow and Barrett’s chin.
Reading their body language, that seemed to be what linesman Johnny Murphy was telling James. And you could see he was deliberating. After speaking to Johnny, he went over to check on Barrett and came back to Johnny again before speaking to Hogan and showing him red.
Richie had been hurt and required a blood treatment earlier when Barrett gave him a nice slap, and for that the Tipperary defender should have seen yellow. Perhaps had Barrett been punished, Hogan wouldn’t have felt the need to plough into him like that.
It might have taken the sting out of the game completely, but it was simply a call that had to be made and you have to commend James and Johnny for doing what they did. Referees want to contribute to the spectacle, but not at the expense of dangerous play. And I repeat — James wouldn’t have wanted it this way. Bear in mind, it was he and I who had to make the call about Austin Gleeson two years ago.
On an awful day for hurling, it was also a tough day for refereeing. They usually go hand in-hand, and James should have awarded Tipperary a penalty in the eighth minute when Seamus Callanan was fouled by Huw Lawlor in the large parallelogram. A 20m free was given instead, but Callanan was illegally challenged in the penalty area.
A few more frees could have been awarded in the first half, the majority of them to Kilkenny. Adrian Mullen was fouled once or twice and didn’t receive a free, as was Colin Fennelly in the 28th minute. HawkEye was called for a John Donnelly point in the 18th minute when Brian Hogan again pulled the ball back from behind the crossbar — but at least here there wasn’t a score at the other end before the play was pulled back to award the score.
There was a free for Tipperary in the build-up to Callanan’s goal earlier in the second half, although it didn’t look like it was coming. Jason Forde picked up a yellow card for a bad foul on Eoin Murphy and the Kilkenny goalkeeper was fuming with it so much that he later picked up a booking himself for dissent after a dubious Tipperary free was awarded.
James did play good advantage for Fennelly’s point after TJ Reid was fouled, and he did the same earlier after Fennelly was hooked by John McGrath. In the second half, it was a stroll in the park for James compared the slippery conditions in the first half. He can consider himself satisfied, but he won’t have taken any pleasure dismissing Hogan.
In the minor final, Patrick Murphy was steady, but gave a lot of soft frees in the second half. Without being outstanding, he did his job competently. On another note, Liam Gordon is a big appointment for the U20 All-Ireland final.
He did well in his minor semi-final and it’s a massive chance for him to impress next weekend after a good first year on the national panel.