Yesterday was a day for hurling referees to step up to the mark and both James McGrath and Fergal Horgan did just that, in Semple Stadium and Croke Park.
They did their colleagues a world of good, too, because the flak had been constant and a lot of it was justified.
James started well in Thurles and he was right with all the yellow-card decisions — David McInerney, Conor Cleary, Jamie Shanahan, and Colm Spillane. Bill Cooper should have entered his book under the same category for a high tackle, but it could be forgiven. The odd error or two on such a stage is allowed.
James would have been very satisfied leaving Thurles. I did four Munster finals and they were all big and James knows he contributed to a massive occasion, and he was not swayed by either group of supporters, who were big in numbers and would have attempted to influence him.
James also provided advantage freely and scores came from them. His umpires were very strong, too, and the calls they made, for 65s and wides, looked to be correct.
It was James’s best performance of the championship and the same could be said about Fergal, although it was only his second, after the earlier-round game between Galway and Kilkenny. It was a completely different game to that in Thurles, a very physical one, and tough.
It wasn’t brilliant, but there was no holding back and Fergal tried to play advantage when he could, but often called back the play for the frees to be taken.
He got the penalty calls right, choosing not to give them, though he was a little harsh on Walter Walsh. He seemed to believe he was diving, when David Burke looked to have grabbed his arm.
HawkEye also showed it can work quickly, when there was a question of whether a Galway ball had gone over the crossbar in the first-half.
The information came into the umpire’s ear and he waved the white flag.
There was no major controversy for Fergal, but that might not be the case for the replay next weekend. As a Leinster man, I am astonished that it has been taken out of the province and that’s not me showing any bias for Tullamore.
It was a strange decision. Replays take on meanings of their own and the referee will have to keep in mind that Kilkenny and Galway are locking horns for a third game in recent times.
I refereed the 2010 Munster final replay and there were only 22,000 in Thurles for it, but the atmosphere was ferocious. It’s a chance for another referee to stake a claim for the big games ahead and put pressure on James and Fergal for the big one at the end of the year.
Colm Lyons, or somebody else, could now get a boost for their All-Ireland final credentials.
The Kildare-Mayo game on Saturday evening was thoroughly enjoyable, a huge contest, where the up-and-coming referee, David Gough, did well in what was a difficult match to officiate.
By my estimation, he got 85%-90% of the calls right. One he got wrong was the late free against Diarmuid O’Connor, who had the ball in his hands before touching it on the ground, which is not a free.
His umpires incorrectly gave a point to Kevin McLoughlin in the second-half, when it had gone wide and Aidan O’Shea fouled a lot and could have picked up a second yellow card earlier than he did.
The decision to black-card McLoughlin was right. In the Cavan-Tyrone game, David Coldrick had it fairly handy, although, much like O’Shea, Cavan captain, Ciaran Brady, could have been dismissed long before he was — his first yellow card should have come in the 11th minute.