Two high-profile All-Ireland semi-finals this weekend but they couldn’t have been more different in nature.
Largely due to how physical it was, yesterday’s game was a lot more tougher to referee than Saturday’s clash. Limerick and Galway went at each other hammer and tongs and it was difficult for James Owens to distinguish what were frees and what weren’t.
The main talking point from it was Gearóid Hegarty’s hurl across Joe Canning at the end of the first half. No-one saw it so there was not much that could be done at the time but it was a bad pull by Hegarty who was making no attempt to hook Canning.
Hegarty can count himself lucky the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) don’t seem to be reviewing decisions as closely as they used to. For example, Austin Gleeson wasn’t retrospectively picked up for a similarly late hit on Seamus Harnedy last month.
I was a linesman with James when he was asked to look back at his decision not to punish Gleeson in the 2017 semi-final against Cork and he told the CCCC he was happy with his call. I just don’t see him being asked again to consider the Hegarty incident. That being said, how Hegarty didn’t pick up a yellow card when he gave away four or five fouls by my count is a mystery.
James fell down on that count as he did with a couple of calls at a crucial period late in the second half that cost Galway. Pádraig Mannion was blatantly fouled but no free was given and Cian Lynch was able to score a point. Hegarty also fouled prior to Tom Morrissey scoring late on. As well as that, Mannion took Aaron Gillane out of it with the hurl and should have been yellow carded.
In the first half, Gillane’s dig at Éanna Murphy was innocuous but it was silly and he was lucky not to be booked. Kyle Hayes was allowed to overstep with the ball in hand. The problem was there were times when James was playing advantage so to call back play would have been awkward. That is something the referee's body must address in 2021.
More positively for James, he played some good advantage. Tom Morrissey profited from that after a high tackle by Shane Cooney on William O’Donoghue in the first half and he also allowed play to continue for Brian Concannon and Seamus Flanagan scores.
I mentioned in Saturday’s newspaper that James only had one game going into this clash and the Wexford championship concluded back in August and he seemed a little bit rusty. It wasn’t the performance he would have wanted in a semi-final.
On the other hand, Fergal Horgan had an excellent game on Saturday. He set the right tone early on with four or five frees and while Waterford supporters will have felt their team was hard done by with one or two of them things did even out. For instance, he gave great advantage for Stephen Bennett’s goal.
Fergal knows what intent is and although there were high fouls by Conor Browne, Neil Montgomery and Jamie Barron he gave them the benefit of the doubt, deeming them careless use of the hurl. John Donnelly was the recipient of common sense too when he broke a hurl across Tadhg de Búrca and it was the right call.
Paddy Deegan picked up a yellow card late in the second half even though his 11th minute foul warranted a booking. Unlike Sunday’s game, Fergal was also sharper on steps and Calum Lyons was penalised as a result.
Fergal can be happy with the game and while I wouldn’t rule him out for the final Colm Lyons has been reffing well this winter and deserves it.
Paud O’Dwyer would be a tad unfortunate not to be awarded any of the last three games but Colm looks to be the best man for the job on December 13.
Let’s hope Fergal and James are still a part of the national panel next year. I know I’ve mentioned it before but to think that Alan Kelly and Sean Cleere, who took charge of last year’s semi-finals, aren’t included this time around is astonishing.