Championship Preview: Eddie Cullen, Wexford

I played a bit underage with the county and Dickie (Murphy) asked me to fall in with him as an umpire

: We’re working together for the last seventeen years so we know each other well.

The first game was a senior hurling championship game in Wexford, between Buffer’s Alley and St Martin’s:

It got pretty feisty, it was a fair baptism of fire. Martin’s won by a couple of points and Buffer’s Alley probably disputed a couple of frees.

Goalkeepers can try to get you on-side alright

: Chatting to you and so on. The likes of Donal Óg Cusack and Brendan Cummins would talk away, during national league games they’d certainly be chatting to you. But they were very decent if you wanted a hurley or anything down the line for the club. They would have been very good to people like that.

An All-Ireland final is a pressure situation, there’s no denying that

: The first time I umpired at an All-Ireland final it hit me as soon as I went out onto the playing field, absolutely it did.

When you go down to the goal in Croke Park you’re conscious of it all the time. Not only do you have seventy or eighty thousand in the ground, but you’re aware of a million people or whatever it is looking at you on television. You’d feel that. You’d have to.

We made a tough call in an All-Ireland quarter-final one time, it got a reaction

: Galway and Kilkenny were level when the Galway keeper dropped a free from deep in his own half all the way down onto the Kilkenny crossbar. PJ Ryan was in goal for Kilkenny and he got his hurley up to it, but it just got over the bar — a matter of two or three inches but it was over. I looked over at the other umpire and he nodded, so I went for the flag. PJ had the ball down and cleared out the field while I was waving the flag, Ger Loughnane was over Galway and he was in roaring at Dickie. We were wired up so I got the word to him.

Noel Hickey was in first for a chat with me, and Jackie Tyrrell wasn’t long after him

: But typical Kilkenny, Eddie Brennan had a couple of goals a few minutes later and it was all over.

The most intense atmosphere I experienced was Clare versus Tipperary in 2001

: That was coming towards the end of their great rivalry, and Tipp won by a couple of points. Because it was Páirc Ui Chaoimh, with no actual tunnel, there was a line of gardaí shepherding us out for the second half. It was absolutely electric, but I always found Páirc Ui Chaoimh to have a better atmosphere even than Thurles. It wasn’t an easy game for Dickie to handle, either, but he did a great job.

It’s great enjoyment

: Nothing is like playing but it’s great to be part of a big day out, off at half nine in the morning and back at nine that night.

The white coats?

: I think there’s something about them. There’s a history there, you see clips of old, old All-Ireland finals and the umpires all have the white coats. It’s tradition.



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