Of the three games I took in over the weekend, the toughest to referee was clearly the one in Salthill.
In terms of the physical stakes, none of the other two — Tipperary-Cork and Offaly-Wexford — came close even if there were three red cards shown in Tullamore on Saturday evening.
There could have been a couple shown in Pearse Stadium too but Fergal Horgan had a decent outing.
His consultation with the umpires for the disallowed goals was spot-on, the first for Brian Concannon’s square ball and the second when Bill Sheehan dropped the hurley to assist Walter Walsh.
When he was head of the referees committee, Pat McEnaney always told us that it didn’t matter how long we spoke to our umpires or linesmen as long as we got the decision right.
And yesterday there was some very good teamwork from Horgan and his men in white to make the right calls.
Daithí Burke’s yellow card for taking out Luke Scanlon for the Kilkenny penalty was borderline red. Had it been a little higher into the face, Fergal would have had no option but to send him off.
In the same play, Gearóid McInerney was correctly shown a yellow card for careless use of the hurley. He could have picked up a second yellow for a foul on Walter Walsh in the second half but it was Joe Canning who was booked rightly for a slap across the arm.
It was interesting to see Martin Keoghan shown a yellow card in the first half for a late hit of the hurley across Pádraig Mannion.
The decision was spot-on but Ronan Hughes did the same thing in Tullamore and was sent off as a result. More on that later.
Overall, Fergal controlled a tough game well and was not daunted by the big Galway crowd.
At times, they were on his back but he refused to be influenced by them and that will stand to him in the weeks ahead.
John Keenan can also be pleased with how he fared in Thurles given it was his first senior Munster match.
He was on the money yellow-carding Mickey Cahill as he was Pádraic Maher.
As I alluded to last week, when Cork are involved you know half the battle as a referee is gone.
However, John will be disappointed at the HawkEye calls by his umpires. We all know it’s a great tool there to determine the legitimacy of scores and it’s there to be used but there were a couple of occasions when it wasn’t required at all, particularly that equalising point by Jake Morris. If we’re talking about inches between a scoring attempt being a point or a wide, then by all means make the sign for a square but those chances were abundantly clear by as much as two feet.
As I said, Fergal has a solid team around him and John, if he is to advance, knows that his group have to shape up because you’re only as strong as those who support you. John himself was keen to let the game flow although his time-keeping at the end was slightly questionable. Tipperary’s subs would have counted as an extra 20 seconds and with the HawkEye break he should have allowed for another minute. That being said, it didn’t really affect his performance, which was strong.
In Tullamore, it was one-way traffic for Wexford who were in control from an early stage.
James McGrath showed Sean Gardiner two yellows for high tackles, which resulted in penalties, and Oisín Kelly was dismissed for pushing his hurley into the face. But the Hughes decision seemed harsh when it should have been a yellow.
Lack of consistency is what upsets fans most and if they see that their team is being unfairly or treated differently to others it causes friction. The games continue to come thick and fast for the next three weeks and there has to be a level playing field.
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