Brian Gavin: James McGrath played his part in helping Thurles thriller to flow

What an amazing spectacle in Thurles yesterday and James McGrath can believe he contributed to it, writes Brian Gavin.

Brian Gavin: James McGrath played his part in helping Thurles thriller to flow

What an amazing spectacle in Thurles yesterday and James McGrath can believe he contributed to it, writes Brian Gavin.

Just 12 frees were awarded, six to each side. It may look incredibly low but he took the same approach for this game as he did when he took charge of the counties’ All-Ireland semi-final four years ago — and that too was a memorable affair.

Now, both teams might feel aggrieved, Kilkenny perhaps more so when they consider that John Donnelly decision when he should have been given a free, but James let them hurl and they reacted accordingly.

James allowed good advantage for Graeme Mulcahy when Paul Murphy blatantly fouled him and Murphy was yellow carded.

Then there was the Paddy Deegan incident after the break when he gave a dig of the hurl but it wasn’t on the same type of scale as Tom Condon’s earlier in the Championship. He was also right not to give a penalty to Liam Blanchfield and give the free and yellow card to Richie English.

HawkEye was also called on and it was justified as the ball sailed well over the posts and the umpires didn’t have time to get into the right position to see if it had gone over or not.

Kilkenny could also say Billy Ryan should have been given a free early on but then Limerick only scored two frees, including Aaron Gillane’s one at the end which was deserved because of Murphy’s foul, and I don’t believe James cost them the game.

He’s now in a good position for an All-Ireland final but then last year’s referee, Fergal Horgan, did little wrong in the Clare-Wexford game either.

Had he given Rory O’Connor a free, it might not have led to the roughness that followed when Conor Cleary used his hurl but it wasn’t a striking action.

The other yellow cards were right calls — Colm Galvin, Conor McDonald, Jack Browne — and it was worth pointing out that, as in Galvin’s case, you can be ticked after picking up a yellow.

John Conlon and Liam Ryan deserved yellow cards, given the amount of fouling they were committing on each other.

The GAA’s referees’ appointment committee can thank James and Fergal for getting them out of a hole these past few weeks because up to then there had been real difficulties for them and their umpires.

On another note in Cork on Saturday, it was pathetic to see genuine Clare supporters being dragged off the Páirc Uí Chaoimh field.

Whoever came up with that regulation should be relieved of their duties, be they paid or unpaid. It was scandalous.

When the old and the young alike are allowed on the fields of Thurles, Tullamore, and Portlaoise scenes like these don’t do anything to convince the public that the GAA isn’t losing touch with the grassroots.

On Super 8’s opening weekend, Killian Young was sent off for Kerry yesterday and while it might have seemed harsh to some, he did throw a closed hand at the Galway forward.

Barry Cassidy was right to black card Thomas Flynn, send off Eoghan Kerin for a second yellow and issue a yellow card to Patrick Sweeney, and overall it was a decent performance for the Derryman.

Conor Lane’s use of the advantage rule for that Donegal attack in the first half brewed up some controversy. Although, I didn’t think Niall Scully did enough to give away a penalty against Paddy McGrath, Conor would have got away with the matter had he blown for a free-in to Donegal.

We’ve discussed umpires a lot these past couple of months but they did well not to allow a goal for Dublin, even though the Donegal goalkeeper’s feet were well behind the goal in retrieving the ball.

Michael Murphy, though, could have been cautioned at an early point in the game but wasn’t.

In the Tyrone-Roscommon game, David Gough correctly punished Niall Morgan for not kicking the ball the required 13 metres.

The rule applies for sideline balls too and David was well positioned to call the free against the Tyrone goalkeeper.

PaperTalk GAA Podcast: Dalo on a different Limerick, Divo on Galway's plan and Kerry's collapse

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up