Top inter-county hurling referee Pat O’Connor says match officials in Munster have become disenchanted by the province’s lack of All- Ireland final appointments.
Not since the now retired Michael Wadding of Waterford took charge of the 2010 decider has a Munster man being given the duty on the ultimate September date.
Limerick man O’Connor, who took charge of three All-Ireland finals, has questioned why Croke Park has favoured “the blessed Trinity” of Brian Gavin, who will referee Sunday week’s Kilkenny-Tipperary final, Barry Kelly and James McGrath.
In his role as vice-chairman of the Munster referees committee which elapsed earlier this year, O’Connor regularly raised the question of why only three Munster referees had been appointed to finals since 2003 when he was last the man in the middle for the hurling year’s biggest occasion. However, he claims he received little in the way of feedback.
“Munster referees are finding there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” said O’Connor. “Of the last 13 senior hurling finals and the replays, only three have been referred by Munster refs. Referees in the province are getting sick of the whole thing and it’s beginning to show especially in Clare, Limerick and Waterford where there are currently no inter-county referees and it’s difficult to get referees in those counties at all.”
O’Connor openly questions the appointments process. “James Owens is relatively new on the block and last year was his first one. The majority of the finals have gone to the two Westmeath lads (Kelly and McGrath) and Brian Gavin. I’m not knocking Brian – he’s a very good referee – but there needs to be a fairer distribution because it’s been Leinster non-stop more or less for the last 10 years and more.
“Going back over the years, some fine Munster referees have been overlooked. Johnny Ryan certainly was. Fergal Horgan from Tipperary is coming up the ranks and is doing well. John Sexton was certainly overlooked and got a raw deal as far as I’m concerned. Nobody is entitled to get an All-Ireland final but I felt he was good enough and Johnny Ryan should have got one either last year or 2013. There just seems to be a blessed trinity there.
“In my time, there was a better spread of referees but it seems to be gone and it’s not good for the game as I see it.”