I didn’t believe there was two types of officiating in Westmeath until this weekend when watching Barry Kelly and James McGrath in action.
Barry had an excellent game in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday, not afraid to give frees, unlike James in Tullamore the previous evening.
James was wrongly criticised for not allowing the advantage for the disallowed Cyril Donnellan goal in last year’s All-Ireland final replay.
Watching him on Saturday, he was more inclined to play advantage even where there was a clear foul and no advantage.
Before the game, a number of Waterford supporters informed me that this was the third time James was refereeing either a league or Championship game involving their team this year. That equates to 43% of their total.
It was also the second game in a row with he having taken charge of Waterford’s defeat to Clare, a game in which many Waterford people felt aggrieved by his refereeing.
The fact the winners were playing Westmeath, James’ own county, put him in a difficult position as well.
Obviously, it’s unhealthy for teams and referees to be meeting each other so often but when a referee is appointed to a game he shouldn’t be changed as most fans will be unhappy with whoever is chosen.
However, there should be an onus on the appointments committee to take into consideration all the factors surrounding the selection of a referee for any particular game.
On Saturday, James gave plenty of time for Derek Molloy to be treated for a serious injury, but when Jamie Nagle was hurt in the 26th minute he allowed the puck-out from which Kevin Brady scored a point.
Seamus Prendergast should also have been awarded a penalty in the second minute of the second-half, while Offaly goalkeeper James Dempsey was lucky on one occasion to win a free out and then Maurice Shanahan was denied what looked to be a clear free.
When he awarded Waterford their first free of the second-half in the 42nd minute the Waterford contingent in the stands and terraces roared in ironic gratitude.
As for Breffni Park yesterday, a game like this called for a man to be on top of his game and not lacking confidence in his decision-making.
It was the type of game where it was nearly impossible to get everything right and I thought Eddie Kinsella did well overall.
In the 20th minute, Michael Murphy was surrounded by four Down defenders and a free was awarded, which was the correct decision even if Murphy had nowhere to go. It was a silly one to give away on Down’s part.
He made two good calls in giving frees against men in possession, Leo McLoone grabbing hold of Kevin McKernan and then Ryan Boyle on Murphy.
Like in the Tyrone game, there were far too many players standing too close to free kicks.
Kinsella’s biggest mistake was in the 69th minute when there was two points between the teams. Mark Poland was going through on goal when he was fouled from behind by Murphy and it went unpunished.
Anthony Thompson also overcarried the ball, taking about 12 steps, and yet was awarded a free out.