Brian Gavin: Men in the middle played their part in a magical weekend

Where to start with this enthralling weekend? It was unbelievable in so many ways. To have two outstandingly exciting All-Ireland semi-finals one after the other. Referees get just as thrilled about these days too.

Brian Gavin: Men in the middle played their part in a magical weekend

Where to start with this enthralling weekend? It was unbelievable in so many ways. To have two outstandingly exciting All-Ireland semi-finals one after the other. Referees get just as thrilled about these days too.

To be involved in them, to know you have contributed to games of this magnitude, it makes all the training and preparing worthwhile.

Referee Paud O’Dwyer throws the ball in for extra time in yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final. Pic: Inpho/Oisin Keniry
Referee Paud O’Dwyer throws the ball in for extra time in yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final. Pic: Inpho/Oisin Keniry

Some supporters might take issue with me but I felt both officials helped make the two games real spectacles.

Yesterday was Paud O’Dwyer’s biggest game of his career and while he struggled at times with frees we’re only talking about four or five. Otherwise, he performed very well.

Aaron Gillane, though, was fouled several times and when he kicked that ball wide in the first half he did so having had the hurley pulled out of his hand.

Bill Cooper broke the hurley across a Limerick player and advantage was given and he was yellow carded yet no free was given when there was no clear advantage.

Cooper also looked to have made a meal of a challenge by Cian Lynch to get him booked.

Seamus Harnedy should have had a free-in after he was injured in the 23rd minute and Peter Casey was definitely fouled towards the end but nothing came of it.

Paud must realise he had one umpire on the Hill 16 end who let him down a bit and he must think about changing him for future games.

Two of the HawkEyes he called were well within the posts, at least by one or two feet, and umpires should really be getting those ones without any assistance.

John Keenan, one of Paud’s linesmen, could also have given him a dig out by alerting him to the constant grappling Eoin Cadogan was doing on Gearóid Hegarty.

On another note, Cork’s consolation goal should have been ruled out for a square ball in the dying seconds.

After last year’s All-Ireland semi-final when he chose not to retrospectively look at the Austin Gleeson incident, James Owens had a few tough days.

I thought a lot of the criticism was unwarranted — I was involved that day assisting James — and I just felt it was wrong.

There were a couple of umpiring calls that let him down earlier this year too but he can be satisfied with his couple of hours’ work on Saturday evening.

I heard Micheál Donoghue giving out about him and I saw it for myself as I was sitting behind the Galway manager in the Lower Hogan Stand.

Micheál would be known as a quiet enough fella but he was seriously animated on Saturday evening.

However, his protestations were exaggerated and he was wrong to be making such a fuss especially for a decision by James not to give David Burke a free.

It looked to me like they were trying to put pressure on James and his officials but they saw through it. To be fair to them, they weren’t buying what he was trying to sell.

James played a lot of good advantage on Saturday. HawkEye has been a major discussion here and the four calls on it in the game were excellent ones — all of them were over the post and therefore ruled out.

If there was criticism, it would be for booking Conor Cleary for pulling Joe Canning to the ground when it looked to be the other way around.

The late one to give Clare a free for a foul on Tony Kelly in injury time of normal time was borderline but then the angle with which he was looking was with the Clare supporters going crazy in the background and it was a tough call.

James was right to caution David McInerney for throwing the hurley when David Burke was going through.

He was also correct to add an extra 30 or 40 seconds at the end of it all and he can consider himself to be back in form.

In general, hurling refereeing is back on a steady footing too after a difficult provincial championship period.

Umpiring remains a matter for concern but there’s no doubt the men in the middle have been giving good accounts of themselves over recent matches.

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