The GAA are set to return to naming a panel of 14 referees across their top two hurling championships.
Last year, a list of 10 match officials were named in a group assigned to the Liam MacCarthy Cup. However, it has been decided a larger roster will now cover it and the Joe McDonagh Cup, as was the case previously for the MacCarthy and Christy Ring Cups.
Last year’s 10 included Ovens’ Diarmuid Kirwan who has retired having reached the age limit, while James McGrath withdrew from inter-county refereeing when he was not appointed for last year’s All-Ireland final. Instead, James Owens was handed the role, the first referee in 13 years to take charge of the game having not been the man in the middle for the quarter-final.
McGrath’s last significant appointment was last year’s Leinster club semi-final between Ballyhale Shamrocks and Naomh Éanna. Although there were suggestions McGrath could have been persuaded back, the national referees' committee have not contacted with the 42-year-old.
The absence of 2007 and ‘09 All-Ireland final referee Kirwan and McGrath, who oversaw the 2012 and ‘13 final replays, means there are now just two match officials with final experience on the panel - Wexford’s James Owens (2015, ‘18) and Tipperary’s Fergal Horgan (‘17).
Apart from the remaining eight of last year's panel, those expected to feature in the 14 are Cork’s Cathal McAllister, Tipperary’s Johnny Ryan and Patrick Murphy of Carlow. Aghada’s McAllister and Boherlahan-Dualla man Ryan were previously on the Championship panels in 2017, while Murphy was given three Division 1 games this year. Colum Cunning (Antrim), Rory McGann (Clare) and Liam Gordon (Galway) are also set to be included.
After a mistake by his umpire in last year’s Waterford-Tipperary Munster SHC game, Galway’s Alan Kelly was not given another appointment for the remainder of the Championship. However, he was also a referee in three Division 1 games this spring and will be on the rota.
The 18-strong football panel is likely to remain more or less the same although Seán Lonergan of Tipperary could be in the reckoning and Clare’s Rory Hickey is fit again having missed last year’s Championship through injury