Sexton treating Leitrim decider like an All-Ireland final

Cork referee John Sexton will make a round trip of almost 300 miles this weekend to take charge of the Leitrim senior hurling championship final.

The vastly experienced Sexton, standby referee in the All-Ireland SHC final replay, is relishing the opportunity to officiate the decider between Carrick and Cluainín Iomáint at Pairc Seán Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon.

He explained: “It came through one of my umpires, Ciarán O’Regan, a referee himself. Ciarán worked in a radio station up there and he knows all those boys, he actually got the whole thing started — he was also the goalkeeper for Longford this year.

“They asked him if I’d be interested in doing it and I said fine, as long as it didn’t clash with the Cork championship here, which it didn’t. I’ve done games in Kerry as well and you notice the improvement in the standard over the years — I think it helps the game if you have experienced outside referees coming into developing counties.

He continued: “The way I look at it, this is as important as the Cork county final or an All-Ireland final. This a huge game to the teams and the players involved. The standard won’t be as high as for those games, obviously, but these guys are still putting in a major effort and you have to give them your full respect. I’m bringing my regular team of umpires and we are heading up there on Friday night. We will have the same approach as we have for every other game.”

A top inter-county referee and four umpires travelling up from Cork, surely with the GAA mileage rates and officiating fees that’s an extravagance by Leitrim GAA chiefs, a costly exercise in a time of cutbacks?

Not so, says Sexton. “We’re being put up locally for the night but we’re travelling at our own expense and there will be no match fee.”

And he will approach the game in the manner he always does: “You have to be as alert for one game as for another. No matter what level you’re at though you try to use a commonsense approach, talk to the lads beforehand to let them know what you’re looking for. That’s what I’ll be doing this Saturday.”

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